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U.S. Taliban fighter held at Marine base in Afghanistan

John Walker, an American convert to Islam, told CNN he joined the Taliban about six months ago.  

CAMP RHINO, Afghanistan (CNN) -- John Walker, the 20-year-old American who fought with the Taliban, was being held Saturday at a Marine base in southern Afghanistan, a Marine Corps spokesman said.

"Walker is a battlefield detainee," said Capt. Stewart Upton of the U.S. Marine Corps. "He is being held here pending disposition instructions from higher headquarters."

Another Marines spokesman, Capt. David Romley, said Walker is being held at Camp Rhino "for his own protection."

An American convert to Islam, Walker told CNN he was a student in Pakistan when he became involved with the Taliban about six months ago. He was one of about 80 Taliban fighters who survived a bloody uprising among Taliban prisoners near Mazar-e Sharif.

Aided by U.S. warplanes, the Northern Alliance put down the uprising. Hundreds of prisoners and CIA officer Mike Spann were killed. A videotape recorded shortly before the uprising broke out showed Spann trying to question Walker.

Correspondent Rick Leventhal reports from Camp Rhino, Afghanistan where John Walker is in custody (December 8)

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"Do you know the people here you're working with are terrorists and killed other Muslims?" Spann asked in footage that ABC and CBS broadcast Friday. "There were several hundred Muslims killed in the bombing in New York City. Is that what the Koran teaches? I don't think so. Are you going to talk to us?"

Walker did not respond to the questions, which an Afghan cameraman captured on videotape.

Justice Department lawyers are examining what charges could be brought against Walker or any other U.S. citizen who fought for al Qaeda or the Taliban. Officials released a list of six possibilities, including treason, murder and conspiracy, that carry a possible death sentence upon conviction.

James Brosnahan, an attorney for Walker's family, appealed Friday for the U.S. government to allow Walker's parents to see their son.

"They are anxious to know how John is doing. We have renewed our previous request to the government to know what John's condition is and to visit him without delay," Brosnahan said in a statement. "Thus far, John's parents have received no official word as to John's physical health, mental state or even his whereabouts."

Meanwhile, the Marines based at Camp Rhino southwest of Kandahar have turned their attention to searching for remaining al Qaeda fighters after the city's fall.

Teams of Marines backed by Cobra attack helicopters, .50-caliber machine guns, grenade launchers and TOW missiles patrolled the area around the camp, carrying photographs of al Qaeda leaders with them.

The Marines held a ceremony and offered a 21-gun salute for an Afghan opposition fighter killed this week by an errant U.S. airstrike -- an incident that also killed three American soldiers. A Muslim Marine corporal read from the Koran, and a Catholic Marine major who is a lay minister spoke.

The Afghan fighter's family will receive a map marking the coordinates of his grave, a grave registration form and casings from the rounds fired in the salute.


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