TASHKENT, Uzbekistan – A man who fought with the Taliban and claims to be an American is in the custody of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after being discovered among captured Taliban troops.
Army Lt. Col. Jim Cassella, a Pentagon spokesman, said in Washington that the man was injured and being given medical assistance by U.S. forces.
He could not provide further details about the man, nor would he immediately confirm whether the man was indeed a U.S. citizen.
"U.S. military forces in Afghanistan have in their control a man who calls himself a U.S. citizen," Cassella said. "He was among the Al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners held by the Northern Alliance in Mazar-e-Sharif."
The man was among a group of around 80 Taliban fighters who stayed holed up for six days in a basement of the Qalai Janghi fort, hiding from Northern Alliance soldiers who had put down a riot by Taliban prisoners in the fortress.
The revolt, which began Nov. 25, was put down after three days of bloody fighting; the men straggled out of the basement Saturday after Northern Alliance fighters filled it with water to force them out.
There were conflicting news accounts of the man claiming to be an American.
In an interview posted on Newsweek magazine's Web site Sunday night, his parents identified him as John Philip Walker Lindh, 20, of Fairfax, Calif.
CNN reported that Walker, who said he was born in Washington, D.C. and was a convert to Islam, was being treated Sunday by the Red Cross in Mazar-e-Sharif for grenade and bullet wounds. Newsweek said Walker had identified himself as Abdul Hamid.
In the Newsweek interview, Marilyn Walker described her son as "sweet, shy kid" who had gone to Pakistan with an Islamic humanitarian group to help the poor. She said the reports of his capture were the first news she had received of her son's whereabouts since he left a religious school in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, where he had been studying the Quran, seven months earlier.
"If he got involved in the Taliban, he must have been brainwashed," Marilyn Walker, a home health care worker, said. "He was isolated. He didn't know a soul in Pakistan. When you're young and impressionable, it's easy to be led by charismatic people."
The mother said Walker was born in Washington D.C. and his father was Frank Lindh, a lawyer. Lindh and Marilyn Walker are divorced.
Foreign militants — mostly Arabs and Pakistanis — have fought alongside the Taliban against the Northern Alliance, some of them members of the Al Qaeda network of Saudi exile Usama bin Laden, the chief suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
The Taliban fighters who revolted at Qalai Janghi had been brought to the fortress after surrendering the northern Afghan city of Kunduz.
Scores of rebelling Taliban were killed in the battle, in which Northern Alliance fighters were assisted by U.S. special forces and airstrikes by American warplanes. An American CIA officer was killed in the fighting.
On Saturday, the last 80-odd Taliban emerged from their hiding place. Video tape from the fortress Saturday and acquired by Associated Press Television News showed the prisoners, many of them visibly weak and thin after days without food or water.
Dr. Arif Salimi, head of the local health office in the nearby city of Mazar-e-Sharif, said many of them were injured and were being treated in hospitals.
Two of the prisoners said they were from Yemen, and when one was asked what he was doing in Afghanistan, he answered "jihad," or holy war.
In Geneva, the Red Cross said it had begun registering some of the Taliban prisoners. "Registering for us is a key thing," spokeswoman Kim Gordon-Bates said. "Once a person exists, they can't disappear."