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American who joined Taliban released from US prison after serving 17 years

John Walker Lindh, the Californian who took up arms for the Taliban and was captured by US forces in Afghanistan in 2001, got out of prison today after more than 17 years.

He was released under tight restrictions that reflected government fears he still harbours radical views.

President Donald Trump reacted by saying, "I don't like it at all."

"Here's a man who has not given up his proclamation of terror," he said.

Lindh, 38, left a federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, after getting time off for good behavior from the 20-year sentence he received when he pleaded guilty to providing support to the Taliban.

It was not immediately clear where the man known as the "American Taliban" will live or what he will do. He turned down an interview request last week, and his attorney declined to comment today.

In a Fox News interview, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo decried his early release as "unexplainable and unconscionable" and called for a review of prison system policies.

The president said he asked lawyers whether there was anything that could be done to block Lindh from getting out but was told no. Trump said the US will closely monitor him.

Under restrictions imposed by a federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia, Lindh's internet devices must have monitoring software; his online communications must be conducted in English; he must undergo mental health counseling; he is forbidden to possess or view extremist material; and he cannot hold a passport or leave the US.

FBI counter-terrorism officials work with federal prison authorities to determine what risk a soon-to-be-released inmate might pose.

Probation officers never explained why they sought the restrictions against Lindh. But in 2017, Foreign Policy magazine cited a National Counter-terrorism Center report that said Lindh "continued to advocate for global jihad and to write and translate violent extremist texts."

Yesterday, NBC reported that Lindh, in a letter to a producer from Los Angeles-based affiliate KNBC, wrote in 2015 that the Islamic State group was "doing a spectacular job."

Lindh converted to Islam as a teenager after seeing the movie "Malcolm X" and eventually made his way to Pakistan and Afghanistan and joined the Taliban. He met Osama bin Laden and was with the Taliban on September 11, 2001, when al-Qaida terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Lindh was captured on the battlefield after the US invasion of Afghanistan following 9/11 and was initially charged with conspiring to kill Mike Spann, a CIA operative who died during an uprising of Taliban prisoners shortly after interrogating Lindh.

Lindh denied any role in Spann's death. But he admitted carrying an assault rifle and two grenades.

Spann's daughter Alison Spann, now a journalist in Mississippi, posted a letter on Twitter that she said she had sent to Trump. In it, she called Lindh's early release "a slap in the face" to everyone killed on 9/11 and in the war on terror since then, along with "the millions of Muslims worldwide who don't support radical extremists."

American John Walker Lindh is seen in this undated file photo from a religious school where he studied for five months in Bannu, southwest of Islamabad, Pakistan. Source: Associated Press