Taliban John Heading Back to U.S.

The young American found fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan is on his way back to the U.S., where he will face a long list of federal charges that could put him in jail for the rest of his life.

John Walker Lindh was flown Tuesday from the Navy assault ship USS Bataan in the northern Arabian Sea, a Pentagon official said on condition of anonymity.

The official said Walker would stop somewhere in the region — most likely at the U.S. base in Kandahar — before continuing on to a facility in suburban Washington.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Monday that Walker — dubbed "Taliban John" for his alliance with the ousted extremist regime in Afghanistan — will fly to an undisclosed location in the U.S.

He will likely stand trial in Virginia, outside Washington, D.C. — probably at the same Alexandria courthouse where accused Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui of France will appear for his court case.

Walker has been held on the Bataan since his capture by U.S. troops in November in the siege of Kunduz. He survived the bloody prison uprising by Taliban and Al Qaeda members near Mazar-e-Sharif in which CIA operative Johnny "Mike" Spann was killed.

Walker was recently transferred into FBI custody and, sources said, taken to a secure airbase in Kandahar. From there, the FBI is expected to fly him home in a specially equipped aircraft.

On Monday, the officials, who asked for anonymity, declined to divulge Walker's ultimate destination or other details, saying only that he would transit through the U.S. military base at Kandahar airport.

But U.S. government officials have said he would be handed over to the U.S. Department of Justice and the same federal court district in northern Virginia where Moussaoui is awaiting trial for alleged complicity in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Moussaoui is the only person to date to be charged with direct involvement in the plot. He is currently being held in isolation under constant surveillance at the Alexandria jail, two blocks from the federal courthouse in the northern Virginia city. The prison houses federal inmates while they await trial.

About 150 of the jail's 400 inmates are federal prisoners. Of those, about a dozen of them are suspected of having connections to the government’s terrorist investigation. It's likely Walker will be the next such inmate there.

Among the charges the Taliban fighter faces are conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals in Afghanistan; providing support to terrorist organizations; and engaging in prohibited transactions with the Taliban, according to Attorney General John Ashcroft. He faces life in prison if convicted of the charges.

"We may never know why he turned his back on our country and our values, but we cannot ignore that he did," Ashcroft said.

Additional charges like treason — which can be punishable by death — might be brought against him if the probe concludes they're justified, according to the attorney general.

Military spokesmen have said Walker is the last detainee remaining on the USS Bataan, the amphibious attack ship in the Arabian Sea initially used to confine some of the higher-level Taliban and Al Qaeda suspects.

The 20-year-old Californian who fought with the Taliban is alleged to have trained at an Al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan.

Walker converted from Catholicism to Islam at the age of 16 and apparently joined a terrorist training camp in the spring. At his request, he joined Taliban forces, who sent him to an Al Qaeda training camp. Walker has said he met accused terrorist mastermind Usama bin Laden several times and chose to join the Taliban in fighting the Americans in Kabul and Takar.

Ashcroft's complaint states that Walker learned "bin Laden had sent people to the United States to carry out several suicide operations."

He was ultimately seized by the Northern Alliance and taken into custody by U.S. forces after the prison uprising at a fortress in Mazar-e-Sharif.

Beyond the likely transfer Tuesday of Walker, there was no immediate word from U.S. military officials Monday of any other flights from the Kandahar base to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo, Cuba. On Sunday, 34 more detainees from the war in Afghanistan arrived in Guantanamo, bringing the total to 144.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.