CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
American Taliban Soldier Speaks
Aired December 20, 2001 - 10:01 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now for the exclusive bedside interview of John Walker, the American captured alongside the Taliban. In this hour, we are going to show you the whole tape in its entirety. Then later, we'll explore which charges the president is considering against John Walker. Federal officials will likely pay close attention to this interview with Walker. He was captured in a bloody prison uprising.
Let's good ahead and roll the tape.
JOHN WALKER, AMERICAN TALIBAN: And when the gun shots started, everybody stood up and ran. And I was -- the whole time I was just up against the wall
ROBERT PELTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And you came from Kunduz?
WALKER: All of us.
From Kunduz, all of us were in Tahar.
WALKER: The province.
PELTON: Yes, I know.
How long have you been in Afghanistan?
WALKER: About six months.
PELTON: What was the antibiotic?
PELTON: ... but now you give -- Penicillin or...
PELTON: What was the analgesic you gave him?
(UNKNOWN): I will give him Toranel (ph) -- Morphine -- I will give him Morphine, OK?
PELTON: Why didn't you ask some Americans or foreigners to help you...
WALKER: I was in Kunduz. I didn't know any Americans.
PELTON: If you were a noncombatant, there were no outsiders?
WALKER: In Kunduz?
WALKER: Really, at the time, I was unable to investigate that. Well, actually when I came back -- when we withdraw from Tahar, we walked by foot maybe more than 100 miles. Afterward, I was very sick for the whole period. Until we came through Mazar-i-Sharif, I was still sick.
So I wasn't really isn't a condition to be able to research...
PELTON: But were you with the Taliban all that time, or doing something else?
WALKER: The Taliban have suffered much in the army, and they have the Afghans, and they have the non-Afghans.
I was with the separate branch of the non-Afghans.
PELTON: And what is the non-Afghani branch called?
WALKER: It's called Ansar. It means the helpers.
PELTON: Is that the same as the 055 brigade and the...
WALKER: I'm not familiar with that.
PELTON: That's the term -- I was with the Taliban in 1995, and they were explaining, they had the 055 brigade, and then the...
WALKER: It has -- they have a number name.
I don't remember the number.
PELTON: Have you a slight accent?
WALKER: I haven't spoken English with native speakers in several months. I've been speaking Arabic.
WALKER: I have been living overseas for about two years or so.
PELTON: Really, and how did you get to Afghanistan? Because some friends of mine fought in Chechnya. Did you go through the Mutz (ph) Trail, or did you just come here and volunteer?
WALKER: I was a student in Pakistan studying Islam. And I came into contact with many people who were connected with Taliban.
I lived in a region in the northwestern province -- the people there in general have a great love for the Taliban, so I started to read some of the literature of the scholars and the history of the movement. And my heart became attached to them.
I wanted to help them one way or another. So I had the opportunity...
PELTON: Do you have any military skills, or you just were...
PELTON: Did you attend any of those camps where they train you?
WALKER: A simple training camp.
PELTON: Because a friend of mine was American, and they had to hide him from the Secret Service all of the time, and he went to fight in Kashmir...
WALKER: In Pakistan, yes, that's how it is.
PELTON: You mean, after this is all done, how do you feel? You feel like you were sort of -- you did the right thing? Well, do you feel now, after there's been a number of losses on the Taliban side...
WALKER: With regard to this particular incident, you mean?
WALKER: This was all a mistake of a handful of people.
PELTON: Could you explain that to me, because I'm very interested in that?
WALKER: OK, do you mind if I...
PELTON: We're not filming that part.
WALKER: I'm sure you're familiar with the story, but we had arranged with the (inaudible) government that we would pass through his territory, we would (inaudible) from Kunduz, passing through his territory to Herat.
And we would give them all our weapons on the way. We were on the way, when (inaudible) So when they stopped us on the way and they said, "Give all of the weapons," many people were hesitant. So many of them held -- they hid inside of their clothes hand grenades, which is against what we had agreed upon. And this is against Islam. It is considered a major sin to break a contract, if you agreed, especially with military situations.
So some of them kept hand grenades with them, and when we arrived in the military complex in Mazar-i-Sharif, I think some of -- I don't know what nationality or who they were exactly -- but some of us, some of the brothers were very tense.
(UNKNOWN): This is going to feel a lot better after -- I'm giving you morphine now, OK? This is going to take away a lot of the pain.
(UNKNOWN): It's going to be happy juice.
WALKER: Happy juice?
So, anyway, so as soon as we arrived -- I know that as soon as I cam down from the truck that we arrived, and a grenade exploded right next to the truck. Someone, I don't know what he was thinking or what he was -- it blew up -- a grenade.
So the authorities became afraid of us, and they thought that maybe we had deceived them or something like this. So they immediately put us in the basement for the night, and I don't know if they intended after that to let us free or to interrogate us somewhat and then let us go or what they intended.
So what happened was, we spent the night under the basement. Then they let us out one by one. They would search each one of us. Then they tied us up, and they put us out on the lawn.
So, as they were taking us one by one, some of the last people to come out -- again, they were, I don't know, they were afraid or whatever -- they did the same thing. They pulled out a grenade, and they -- anyway, somehow, they started fighting, starting with a grenade, and then one of them grabbed a (inaudible) from one of the army forces. And so the fighting began, and they began -- eventually, they took some heavier weapons, and they took control of weapons in the storage house and some other things.
PELTON: You were there. Did you run -- did you stay in the basement?
WALKER: I was in the basement the whole time. I didn't see anything that went on. I just heard the noise.
PELTON: The noise. What made you decide to leave the basement?
WALKER: It was the last day. What happened was, yesterday, they had bombed us with airplanes. They had shot missiles. They had thrown grenades. They had shot us with all types of guns, poured gas on us and burned us. They had done everything you can imagine. So the last day (inaudible) they poured water in the basement. They wanted to fill it up with water.
So when they filled it, most of us were injured at that point anyway. Actually, after the -- maybe -- first day, maybe about half us or more than half us or were injured.
So the last day, when they poured the water into the basement, I think the vast majority of us had drowned that morning -- and we were standing in the water, the freezing water in the basement for maybe 20 hours. And so after the water had receded somewhat, after the water receded somewhat, and you know, we began to discuss with one another -- just the topic was on our minds, naturally, you know the basement was filled with the stench of bodies, and we didn't have anymore weapons. They said, "Look, we're going to die either way. If we surrender, then they'll kill us." Is it better to be killed -- I mean, if we surrender, the worst that can happen is that they'll torture us or kill us, right?
So right here in the basement, they're torturing us and killing us. So we might as well surrender, so at least we might have a chance to...
PELTON: Was your goal to be (inaudible) or martyred?
WALKER: It's the goal of every Muslim.
PELTON: Was it your goal, though?
Was it your goal at that time?
WALKER: I tell you, to be honest, every single one of us, without any exaggeration, every single one of us was 100 percent sure that we would all be (inaudible) all be martyred, but you know, Allah chooses to take a person's life when he chooses. And we have no control over.
PELTON: And there's a lot of talk on the news that bin Laden is behind Ansar and the things like that. Is that your understanding?
WALKER: No, he is not, Ansar is composed of different branches according to ethnic groups. It's because of management, and of course, we all have the same cause, which has nothing to do with ethnicity or anything like that. But the language is divided into Bengali and Pakistani and Arabic. So the Arab section of the Ansar is funded by Osama bin Laden.
Also the training camps that the Arabs train in before they come to the frontline are all funded by Osama bin Laden
PELTON: So when you are an American, how do you converse -- you were using Arabic to converse?
WALKER: Yes, I studied Arabic.
PELTON: So would you be with the Arab fighters? WALKER: I was with them. Actually, originally, I came with the Pakistanis, but they sent me to the Arabs because I don't understand Urdu.
PELTON: If you don't want us to, we won't. But is there something that we can communicate? We have cell-phones. Is there something we can communicate to someone, a loved one or a family member?
WALKER: Tomorrow, I'd like to give it some thought to actually what I'd say.
PELTON: So would you like us to come back tomorrow...
PELTON: Just so you know, I'm not going to release your location when I talk about this. I'm not going to release your location, just for your peace of mind and your security.
I'll come back tomorrow. And if you can think of anything you want us to contact either by Internet or by phone, or if you want to (inaudible) yourself, I will bring a satellite phone...
WALKER: You have an Internet connection?
PELTON: Yes, we do, but the Internet connection (inaudible)
PELTON: So if you give us an e-mail address, we can send a message or we can bring the computer and you can type it. It depends on...
WALKER: It is easier for me to write a message (inaudible)
PELTON: So what I'll do is, I'll bring a laptop computer tomorrow. And then we'll plug it in, and we'll go into whatever e- mail address you want.
WALKER: I would appreciate that.
PELTON: You know, first, I want to say that I've known very few Americans that have fought Jihad. And I'm just wondering, just personally, because I've been in Jihad in Chechnya and southern Philippines, I'm just curious, was this what you thought it would be? Was this the right cause or the right place?
KAGAN: Was it the right cause? We're going to have John Walkers' answer to that question in the second part of our exclusive interview.
Also, we want you to know what you think of John Walker now that you have seen this interview, and what charges you think Walker should face. Send us your answer by clicking on "e-mail" on our Web site, cnn.com. We will put some of those responses up.
Part two of the interview with John Walker, our exclusive interview, coming up after this break.
KAGAN: Welcome back.
We now have more for you of CNN's exclusive interview with John Walker, who was wounded in a bloody prison uprising that left an American CIA officer dead. Walker was interviewed by CNN's Robert Pelton, who discovered that Walker was an American fighting alongside the Taliban.
Initially, the 20-year-old expressed some reluctance to be taped, but on December 2, with the camera rolling and lights on, and while he was getting medical treatment, Walker told his story.
PELTON: Is this what you thought it would be? Was this the right cause or the right place?
WALKER: It is exactly what I thought it would be.
PELTON: Have you thought of fighting Jihad in places like Chechnya or (inaudible)
WALKER: Any Muslim that's concerned for the affairs of Muslims (inaudible) has considered this, I think.
PELTON: But you chose Afghanistan, and one thing that I always wondered was, you have Muslims fighting Muslims here.
WALKER: That's a question that's actually addressed in the Koran itself, that, if there is an Islamic state -- I mean there are certain situations in which Muslims, by necessity, are fought. For example, if a group of Muslims were renegades against the Islamic state, it calls for (inaudible) There are other situations also, in which a Muslim can be killed, for example, under the law (inaudible) Islamic law (inaudible) something which the media twists.
PELTON: I'm an author of a book called, The World's Most Dangerous Places, and I traveled with you Jihad groups through various places, and...
WALKER: Yourself a Muslim?
PELTON: No, unfortunately, I'm not. But I respect the cause and I respect the call, but I'm just interested to find an American, because when I met the other prisoners, who were in very bad shape, they seem to be from a number of very poor countries. You know, there were people from Yemen. There looked liked one -- have you met Chechens at all?
WALKER: I've known a few Chechens.
PELTON: Are the Chechens from -- like Chechnya, or are they (inaudible)
WALKER: I've known people from...
PELTON: I've always wondered, because I've been searching Chechens. I've always wondered why a Chechen would fight here (inaudible)
WALKER: Here, in Afghanistan, I haven't seen any Chechens. Only some -- I don't know, there are several small republics within...
PELTON: Yes, there are all kinds...
WALKER: ... or ethnic groups, I mean.
PELTON: Did you know a guy named Abdul Aziz? Was he down -- was he -- because I took a picture of him, and somebody said that's, "Abdul Aziz, he died."
PELTON: Do you know that person?
PELTON: Yes, he's a young Saudi, short hair, hook nose, short beard, not a very long beard.
WALKER: (inaudible) is with us right now.
PELTON: ... young?
WALKER: Not very. He's -- I don't know -- maybe 35 or something.
WALKER: I didn't know all of the...
PELTON: Did you make friends while you were here?
WALKER: Of course, I made friends.
PELTON: And did you enjoy the Jihad? I mean, was it a good cause for you?
KAGAN: Once again, there you saw, in its entirety, CNN's exclusive interview with John Walker. Robert Pelton, associated with CNN, came upon that interview on December 2, and we played it for you in its entirety.
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