TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – The California man who became known as the “American Taliban” after his battlefield capture in Afghanistan battlefield in November 2001 is being released from prison.
Thirty-eight-year-old John Walker Lindh has spent more than 17 years in prison after pleading guilty to providing support to the Taliban. His status in the inmate registry changed from scheduled for release Thursday from the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, to “unknown.” His lawyer in Virginia, Bill Cummings, said “no comment, bye-bye” when asked if Lindh had been freed.
Lindh’s plea deal called for a 20-year sentence, but he’s getting out a few years early for good behavior.
His release has been opposed by the family of Mike Spann, who was killed in Afghanistan during an uprising of Taliban prisoners. Spann had interrogated Lindh shortly before the attack.
A judge recently imposed additional restrictions on Lindh’s post-release supervision, including monitoring of his internet use.
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John Walker Lindh, the captured Islamic militant who at age 20 journeyed to Afghanistan to join the Taliban and fought alongside the terrorists in the days after 9/11, was released from a U.S. federal prison in Indiana on Thursday — despite lawmakers’ concerns about the “security and safety implications” of freeing an unrepentant terrorist who officials say continues to “openly call for extremist violence.”
Lindh, dubbed the “American Taliban,” had been serving his sentence at the Terre Haute, Indiana facility. He was discharged several years before completing the 20-year prison sentence he received for joining and supporting the Taliban, with officials citing “good behavior” for the early release. The former Islamist fighter and enemy combatant, named “Detainee 001 in the war on terror,” was captured alongside a group of Taliban fighters in 2001, just months after the Sept. 11 attacks and the start of the war in Afghanistan.
As he reintegrates into American society, Lindh will have a set of heavy restrictions placed on him. Some lawmakers, however, question whether the safeguards are stringent enough.
“We must consider the security and safety implications for our citizens and communities who will receive individuals like John Walker Lindh, who continue to openly call for extremist violence,” Sens. Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., wrote in a letter to the Federal Bureau of Prisons late last week and that was obtained by the Washington Post.
In the letter, the lawmakers reportedly sought details on how the agency is working to prevent prisoners such as Lindh from committing additional crimes after their release. They also asked which other “terrorist offenders” are next in line to be freed and how the Federal Bureau of Prisons determines whether or not someone is an “ongoing public threat.”
Lindh has been blamed for playing a role in the death of Johnny “Mike” Spann, a U.S Marine turned CIA paramilitary operative who became the first American to be killed in combat in Afghanistan. Spann’s daughter, Allison, told Fox News in March that Lindh’s early release “feels like such a slap in the face.”
In November 2001, U.S forces learned that an American – Lindh – was among the cluster of Taliban fighters left in limbo after their leader surrendered to the Northern Alliance in the northern Afghanistan province of Mazar-i-Sharif. Spann was the first to go into a compound there, serving as a prison, to interview Lindh, peppering him with questions about where he was from and what he was doing. But Lindh refused to respond.
“In those moments, when he chose to stay silent, he sealed his fate as a traitor to the United States,” Allison Spann said. “At any point, he could have warned him that something was being planned.”
Hours later, Lindh’s fellow detainees erupted in a violent revolt that left Mike Spann dead.
The initial charges leveled against the then 20-year-old Lindh in 2002 included one for murder conspiracy due to the role he played in the deadly prison rebellion.
However, nine of the ten counts in an indictment were then dropped and Lindh ended up pleading guilty to disobeying an executive order outlawing support to the Taliban and for possessing a weapon in Afghanistan.
Lindh at the time told a U.S. district judge he never intended to kill Americans.
“I did not go to fight against America, and I never did,” Lindh said, according to The Washington Post. “I have never supported terrorism in any form, and I never will … I made a mistake by joining the Taliban. Had I realized then what I know now, I would never have joined them.”
Sentencing reports have indicated that “good behavior” may serve as justification for Lindh’s early release.
A convert to Islam hailing from northern California’s Marin County, Lindh made the journey to Afghanistan after journeying through Yemen and Pakistan as a 19-year-old shortly before the Sept. 11 attacks. He underwent training in Kandahar and met with Al Qaeda chief Usama bin Laden on at least one occasion.
In 2017, the National Counterterrorism Center, according to documents obtained by Foreign Policy, underscored that Lindh continued to “advocate for global jihad and write and translate violent extremist texts.”
Furthermore, he is alleged to have told a TV producer last March that he would “continue to spread violent extremism Islam upon his release.”
When he leaves lockup, Lindh, according to court records viewed by the Washington Post, will need permission to obtain Internet-connected devices, will not be allowed to talk online in any language but English and will be barred from having a passport, among other restrictions.
Fox News’ Greg Norman and Hollie McKay contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News National
CAIRO – An Egyptian court has ordered the release of Al-Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein, detained since 2016 on allegations of spreading false news and defaming Egypt’s reputation.
Hussein, an Egyptian journalist working for the Qatar-based satellite network, was detained at the Cairo airport in December 2016, when he arrived on a family vacation from Doha. No official charges were ever raised against him and Hussein didn’t stand trial.
The Doha-based Al-Jazeera reported the news on its website Thursday, saying Hussein “was arrested without formal charges and kept in prison for 881 days.”
His daughter, Az-Zahra Hussein, said on Facebook that her father will be released “with precautionary measures” — likely meaning he’ll have to report regularly to police — and that he’s soon to be transferred from prison to a police station.
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Planes spread out across the sky, nearly wingtip to wingtip. A sniper’s bullet whizzing by the ear. Squeezing a dying soldier’s hand, so he knew he was not alone.
Across three quarters of a century, the old veterans remember that epic day on the beaches of Normandy. For historians, D-Day was a turning point in the war against Germany; for men who were among the 160,000 Allied fighters who mounted history’s largest amphibious invasion, June 6, 1944, remains a kaleidoscope of memories, a signal moment of their youth.
Not many of those brave men remain , and those that do often use canes, walkers or wheelchairs. Few are willing or able to return to Normandy for the anniversary. But listen to the stories of some who are making that sentimental journey that spans thousands of miles — and 75 years.
The day before Dennis Trudeau parachuted into Normandy, he wrote his parents a letter saying he was about to go into battle but they shouldn’t worry.
“Everything is going to be fine and dandy,” he wrote. “After all, I’m not scared.”
Trudeau had joined the Canadian military at 17 and became a paratrooper, in part because they were paid an extra $50 a month.
He’s 93 now, living in Grovetown, Georgia. But his memories of D-Day — and the day before D-Day — are undimmed.
On June 5, 1944, he and the other paratroopers sat on the tarmac and joked about how they’d be in Paris by Christmas. But when they climbed into the plane, the chatter stopped.
Trudeau’s position was by the open jump door; he could look out across the vast array of planes and ships powering toward Normandy. Planes were strung out across the horizon.
He prayed: “I just kind of told the Lord, ‘Let me see one more sunrise.'”
And then, he jumped.
Trudeau landed in water up to his waist in a flooded field. In the dark, he rendezvoused with other paratroopers. They were on the way to their objective when friendly fire hit — an Air Force bomb.
Thrown into a ditch, Trudeau heard a dying friend nearby, calling out for his mother.
“You train with him and you ate with him and you slept with him and you fought with him. And in less than three hours, he was gone,” he said.
Within hours, combat would be over for Trudeau, as well. He was captured by German forces, and spent the duration in a prisoner-of-war camp. By the time the war was over he had gone from 135 pounds to about 85.
He returned to Normandy in 1955 to see the graves of eight platoon members who didn’t survive. This time, he’ll say a prayer over their graves.
“They’re the heroes. They’re the ones who gave everything they had,” he said.
There had been a number of false starts ahead of the invasion of Normandy. But Vincent Corsini knew June 6 was different. There was a certain feeling in the air — an “edge,” as he describes it. Chaplains on deck encouraged troops to pray and troops were given a good breakfast.
Certain other D-Day memories are crystal clear: peeking out over the edge of the landing craft with amazement at the U.S. firepower directed at the beach. Machine guns splattering the water as he unloaded. The weight of the 60mm mortars he carried.
Tucked against the bottom of the hill overlooking Omaha Beach, he heard someone yelling for help from the water. Taking off as much equipment as he could, he ran back to the waves and found a stranded officer.
“As I was standing there looking at him, somebody up on the hill pulled the trigger,” he said. The bullet narrowly missed his ear, feeling like a “sonic boom,” as it passed. Corsini grabbed the officer and pulled him to safety.
Corsini went on to fight through the dense hedgerows of Normandy with the 29th Infantry Division until they captured the strategic city of Saint-Lo. At his home in a retirement community in Burlington, North Carolina, a plaque on the wall — “D-Day to St. Lo” — commemorates his efforts. Another marks his receipt of the National Order of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest decoration.
He went back for the 50th D-Day anniversary and looked across a cemetery’s field of white crosses. His wife and members of the French Club he meets with monthly encouraged him to go on the 75th anniversary, at age 94.
His wartime experiences affected his life forever, he said.
“I wouldn’t change my experience for a million dollars,” he said, adding: “I wouldn’t go through it again for a million dollars.”
Frank DeVita remembers the moment he froze.
He had wanted to join the Air Force but had no peripheral vision. He wanted to join the Navy but it would take weeks to start basic training. That’s how he ended up in the Coast Guard on D-Day, ferrying troops to Omaha Beach.
His job was to lower the ramp when the craft got to shore and then raise it after the troops clamored out. But in the early morning hours, as machine gun fire rained down on the boat, that ramp served as DeVita’s shield, protecting him and the other men inside. The coxswain screamed at him to lower the ramp, and in the roar of the cannons and the craft’s diesel engines, DeVita couldn’t hear him. The coxswain screamed again.
“I froze. I was so scared because I knew when I dropped that ramp the bullets that were hitting the ramp were going to come into the boat and I’d probably be dead in five minutes,” said DeVita, 94, speaking from his home in Bridgewater, New Jersey. When he finally dropped the ramp, he said 14 or 15 troops were immediately raked by machine gun fire.
One soldier fell at his feet, his red hair full of blood: “I reached down and I touched his hand, because I wanted him to know he wasn’t alone.”
Then, when he tried to lift the ramp, it was stuck. DeVita had to crawl over dead bodies lining the bottom of the landing craft to fix it.
Again and again, the landing craft ferried men to the beach. When there were no more men to ferry, DeVita and the other sailors pulled bodies from the choppy seas.
For decades — until recently — he never spoke of these things. This June he’ll make his 12th trip back to Normandy. Eager to keep the memory of what happened there alive, he has often brought others along to places like the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer .
“Pick out a tombstone, any tombstone. Place your hand on that white marble and say to yourself, ‘Six feet down is a boy.’ …. He gave his life for his country and then you lift your eyes up and you see 9,400 white marble tombstones,” he said. “They all gave their lives for their country.”
At 93, Norman Harold Kirby looks back at D-Day and the months of fighting that followed and finds it hard to remember exactly what happened.
“A lot of it, I tried to forget,” he said.
The Canadian, who now lives in Lions Bay, British Columbia, had joined the army when he was only 17 and was barely a 19-year-old private when he climbed into the landing craft that would take him to shore. The landing craft hit a mine, blowing a hole in the ship. His ears ringing from the explosion, Kirby abandoned the heavy gear he was carrying, his Bren machine gun and ammunition, and climbed over the side. Many who couldn’t swim died in the water.
“I landed on the on the beach with my knife, fork and spoon,” he said.
On Juno Beach, he remembers an intense cacophony of sounds. Aircraft flying overhead. Navy shells rocketing toward the German positions.
“The noise was just unreal…You couldn’t hear anything, anybody talking or anything. People were yelling,” he said. “You couldn’t hear them because of all the racket going on.”
Kirby went back to France and Europe several times after the war as a tourist but for years never returned to Juno Beach.
“I would not go to the beach. I always stayed away from it. I didn’t want to go,” he said. Finally his wife sent him on a trip to Normandy for the 50th anniversary of the invasion. This time, she’ll accompany him to the 75th anniversary.
Climbing into the plane that would take him to Normandy, Eugene Deibler had no idea what to expect. The 19-year-old had joined the paratroopers to avoid being a radio operator, trained for months and survived a broken ankle in jump school, but had yet to see combat.
Gathered at Merryfield Airfield in southwest England, the paratroopers had already gotten geared up to jump the night before, and then the operation was called off due to bad weather. All that pent-up energy had to go someplace, and Deibler remembers troops getting into fights.
The second night, it was a go. Climbing into the plane, Deibler remembers telling himself that if his buddies could do this, so could he.
“If you weren’t scared something was wrong with you,” he said. “Because you’re just a kid, you know?”
As they arrived at the French coast, he remembers heavy antiaircraft fire and tracer bullets from machine guns lighting up the sky like fireworks.
“We said ‘Let’s get the hell out of this plane,'” he said. The jump light went on, and out they went.
On the ground, their job was to secure a series of locks on the Douve River to prevent the Germans from opening the locks and flooding the fields. But they ran into such fierce resistance trying to secure another objective — a set of bridges — that they had to fall back.
Deibler went on to fight across Normandy, Holland and Belgium, in the Battle of Bastogne.
This will be his first time back to Normandy since the invasion, and he’d like to see what’s changed. At his Charlotte, North Carolina, home, the 94-year-old retired dentist has a collection of World War II books. He’s afraid that the great conflict will be forgotten.
“How many people remember the Civil War? How many people will remember World War I? And now it’s the same with World War II,” he said. “World War II will fade away also.”
Of all the medals and awards that Steve Melnikoff received as a 23-year-old fighting his way across Europe, the Combat Infantry Badge means the most to him. It signifies the bearer “had intimate contact with the enemy,” he said.
And Melnikoff certainly did.
When he landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day-plus-1 — June 7, 1944 — victory was far from secure. His unit was part of the bloody campaign to capture the French town of Saint-Lo through fields marked by thick hedgerows that provided perfect cover for German troops.
He remembers the battle for Hill 108 — dubbed Purple Heart Hill — for its ferocity. His job was to take up the Browning Automatic Rifle should the man wielding it go down. The Germans had shot and killed his friend who was carrying the BAR, and Melnikoff picked it up. About an hour later, he too was shot. As he went down, he looked to the side and saw his lieutenant also come under fire.
“He’s being hit by the same automatic fire, just standing there taking all these hits. And when the machine gun stopped firing he just hit the ground. He was gone,” Melnikoff said.
“That is what happens in war,” he said, speaking from his Cockeysville, Maryland, home.
For decades he didn’t talk about the war and knows some men who went to their graves never speaking about it again. But he feels an obligation now to talk about what he and others went through. In his hundredth year, he works closely with The Greatest Generations Foundation which helps veterans return to battlefields where they fought. This year on June 6, he’ll go back to the cemetery and pay his respects.
“This prosperity and peace that we’ve had for all these years, it’s because of that generation,” he said. “It can’t happen again and that’s why I go there.”
Associated Press reporters David Martin in Bridgewater, N.J. and Tom Sampson in Cockeysville, Md. contributed to this report.
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MOSCOW – A court in Russia has ruled that a Danish Jehovah’s Witness must stay in prison for the next six years.
The court in western Russia on Thursday turned down Dennis Christensen’s appeal against February’s verdict that found him guilty of participating in the activities of an extremist organization.
Amnesty International called the ruling “an affront to the rights of freedom of religion and association.”
Russia in recent years has used its vaguely worded extremism laws to go after dissenters, opposition activists and most recently religious minorities. Russia officially banned the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2017 and declared the religious group an extremist organization.
Nearly 200 Jehovah’s Witnesses are facing criminal charges, including 28 people who are kept in pretrial detention and under house arrest.
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A “violent tornado” tore through Missouri’s capital city late Wednesday, causing extensive damage under the cover of darkness on a day in which severe weather statewide was blamed for three deaths and dozens of people left trapped inside their homes.
The National Weather Service issued a “Tornado Emergency” for the Jefferson City area shortly before midnight as the violent twister moved through the area at about 40 mph.
“This is a life threatening situation,” the NWS said. “Seek shelter now!”
A three-mile square area received the brunt of the storm’s destruction, Jefferson City Police Lt. David Williams said during a Thursday morning news conference.
“It was a very chaotic and very, very bad situation early this morning, late last night,” Williams said.
The lieutenant added authorities were in the process of going “door-to-door” as daylight breaks and search and rescue efforts ramp up.
Williams said no deaths were reported in the capital so far, but 20 people were rescued by emergency personnel
Jefferson City lies near the center of the state, about 158 miles east of Kansas City and about 132 miles west of St. Louis.
The Missouri Department of Public Safety the State Emergency Operations Center confirmed nine patients were admitted at Jefferson City hospitals due to storm-related injuries.
The MDPS reported extensive damage along Ellis Boulevard near Highway 54 and warned of downed power lines. Authorities warned residents all downed lines should be considered live and advised that people stay away from areas that have experienced heavy damage.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson tweeted “major tornados” were reported across the state.
“We’re doing okay but praying for those that were caught in damage, some are still trapped – local emergency crews are on site and assisting,” Parson wrote on Twitter.
The governor added later that, due to damage to state buildings and power failures, he was advising non-essential state employees to stay home Thursday. Meanwhile, city officials have requested help from FEMA, the report said.
The twister that struck Jefferson City was one of several tornadoes to hit Missouri overnight.
“The problem is, the tornadoes came when people were sleeping,” Fox News Senior Meteorologist Janice Dean said on “FOX & friends. “And that’s why we tell people to have their NOAA weather radios on. If the electricity goes out, people are sleeping, at least you will have a way of knowing if there’s a tornado warning in your area.”
The three deaths reported so far came in the southwest part of the state, when a large tornado struck the Golden City area of Barton County. That twister touched down outside of Joplin — exactly eight years to the day an EF-5 tornado slammed the city, killing 158 people and leaving more than 1,000 injured.
Earlier in the day, some Jefferson City residents and businesses were ordered to leave as the Missouri River continued to rise after recent rains.
City officials issued a mandatory evacuation order on the north side of the river. The Missouri Statehouse building, state penitentiary and nearly all of the city’s homes are all located on the south side of the river. As a precaution, the Missouri National Guard also moved four helicopters out of the city’s airport, which also is on the north side of the river. And a Memorial Day weekend airshow was canceled.
Fox News’ Dom Calicchio and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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JOHANNESBURG – Botswana’s government says it has lifted its ban on elephant hunting, a decision that is likely to bring protests from wildlife protection groups.
The southern African nation is home to more elephants than any other country, with an estimated 130,000.
The government’s statement posted on social media says the change comes after consultations with stakeholders. It says hunting will resume “in an orderly and ethical manner” but does not say how it will be regulated.
The hunting ban had been in effect since 2014.
Botswana’s environment ministry says a Cabinet review found high levels of conflicts between elephants and humans.
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2020 Democratic candidate and California Sen. Kamala Harris accused President Trump of holding “America’s infrastructure hostage” after scrapping his White House meeting with Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday.
Trump cut infrastructure negotiations short after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, told the press that the president had “engaged in a cover-up” following a meeting with her caucus. In remarks from the Rose Garden, Trump urged Democrats to end their various investigations so that they can tackle infrastructure.
During her appearance on “The Late Show,” Harris assured host Stephen Colbert, as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, that their investigations will not stop.
“So he’s gonna hold America’s infrastructure hostage, right, over the issue of investigations,” Harris said.
The 2020 candidate then told Colbert that the average cost of four car tires is about $400, which she claimed Americans are forced to pay “because our roads are falling apart.”
“If you want to talk about a representative government, shouldn’t leaders lead on behalf of the people as opposed to self-interest?” Harris continued. “We cannot abandon our democracy for the sake of appeasing somebody who is completely focused on his interests only.”
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BELGRADE, Serbia – Serbian authorities say two migrants are dead and two others are in serious condition after hiding in a truck tank in a bid to reach Western Europe.
The men were discovered two days ago in northern Serbia when the truck driver opened the tank for washing and saw them lying unconscious.
The Clinical Center of Vojvodina on Thursday said the migrants suffered from hyperthermia and hypoxia. One died on Wednesday and the other died overnight. The two others are in intensive care.
Police say at least two of the migrants are from Afghanistan.
Thousands of migrants fleeing war and poverty have been moving through the Balkans in a bid to reach wealthy nations in the West.
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During Sen. Kamala Harris’ appearance on “Late Night with Stephen Colbert” on Wednesday, the 2020 presidential hopeful said the Senate Intelligence Committee will not stop its investigation into President Trump despite what Harris described as Trump’s threats to “hold America’s infrastructure hostage.”
The California Democrat and other intelligence committee members have been investigating Russian election interference and Trump’s alleged ties to Russia for two years. The panel is expected to call on several witnesses to testify as it concludes the probe over the next few months.
Harris vowed that the committee would not stop investigating Trump. She argued the president’s “self-interests” only hurt the American people.
When Colbert asked Harris if she would concede to Trump’s demands, she flatly responded “No.”
“So he’s going to hold America’s infrastructure hostage — right? — over the issue of the investigation,” she continued.
Playing devil’s advocate, Colbert suggested that the intelligence committee could “halt” the investigation in order to work with the White House on the nation’s infrastructure, but Harris rejected the idea.
“This is a false choice,” Harris stated. “We cannot abandon our democracy for the sake of appeasing somebody who is completely focused on his interests only.”
Harris argued that Trump’s failure to work with Dems on infrastructure shows he does not represent most Americans.
“Almost half of American families are a $400 unexpected expense away from complete upheaval,” she said.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump said he told Congress’ top Democrats to “Get these phony investigations over with.” The president threatened not to cooperate with his political rivals on a massive infrastructure proposal if the probe continues.
“I told Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi, I want to do infrastructure… but I can’t do it under these circumstances,” he told reporters during a news conference in the White House Rose Garden.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News Politics