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Transfer of American Taliban fighter under way

American Taliban fighter John Walker
American Taliban fighter John Walker  

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- John Walker, the American captured while fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan, was brought to the U.S. military post at Kandahar airport where he was placed on an airplane for the United States, a U.S. military source told CNN Wednesday. Walker is currently en route to the United States.

A plane with a single detainee aboard arrived amid especially tight security at Kandahar airport Tuesday night, military officials said, only hours after the Pentagon announced that Walker had begun his trip back to the United States.

A U.S. government source told CNN on Tuesday that Walker will most likely land at Washington-Dulles International Airport in Virginia on Wednesday, by late afternoon or early evening.

Walker, a 20-year-old former California resident, had spent weeks on the USS Bataan, a Navy warship in the North Arabian Sea, being interrogated by U.S. investigators.

Officials say the American caught fighting for the Taliban is on his way back to the U.S. to face criminal charges. CNN's Susan Candiotti reports (January 23)

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Because of strict security, little information is expected to be released about Walker's transfer and when he is due back in the United States.

Last week, the Justice Department filed criminal charges against Walker, charging he chose to "embrace fanatics" who killed thousands of his countrymen.

Walker -- who was imprisoned in November in Afghanistan with other Taliban fighters -- was charged with four criminal counts, including two counts of providing material support for resources to terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda. He was also charged with conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals abroad and engaging in transactions with the Taliban, the ousted regime in Afghanistan. If convicted of the charges, he could face life imprisonment.

Walker will likely appear "this week" in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, just south of Washington, a government source said.

Walker was one of about 80 Taliban fighters who survived a bloody uprising among Taliban prisoners near Mazar-e Sharif. The Northern Alliance put down the November uprising with the aid of U.S. warplanes, but hundreds of prisoners and a CIA officer, Mike Spann, were killed.

Attorneys hired by Walker's family to represent him are in the Washington, D.C., area and said they are trying to make arrangements for his parents to see their son "as soon as possible," one of the lawyers said.

Walker was held briefly at the U.S. Marine base Camp Rhino and was transferred to the USS Peleliu in the Arabian Sea on December 14. He was later transferred from the Peleliu to the Bataan.

-- CNN National Correspondent Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.




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