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Police Release Lindh’s Ex-Teacher

May 8, 2002

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PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) _ A Muslim scholar who taught American-born Taliban soldier John Walker Lindh said Wednesday he was released after telling U.S. agents who picked him up for questioning that his religious school had ``nothing to do″ with Islamic extremism.

Mufti Mohammed Iltimas also said he told the agents his former student ``believes in peace.″

Iltimas and another teacher were taken into custody Monday in a joint U.S.-Pakistan operation near the Afghan border in Bannu, sparking protests by angry residents Tuesday demanding an end to the U.S. presence in Pakistan.

In a telephone interview, Iltimas said he and Maulana Khizer Hayyat were told they were not being arrested. He said they were taken to the city of Peshawar, about 125 miles northeast, held overnight for questioning and released Tuesday.

Reached at home Wednesday, Iltimas said four Americans in civilian clothing asked him about Lindh and his time at the school.

Hayyat, who taught at a religious school in Bannu, brought Lindh to Iltimas’s three-room school, about six miles outside Bannu, in November 2000, Iltimas said. Lindh stayed for six months.

Iltimas said he told them his Quranic school was ``just for Islamic education. It has nothing to do with any type of militancy, military training or terrorism.″

He described Lindh as ``an obedient and hardworking student″ who mastered seven chapters of the Quran. ``He believes in peace,″ he said he told the Americans, who were assisted by Pakistani officials acting as translators.

Lindh stayed six months, ``then I handed him back over to″ Hayyat, Iltimas said.

Iltimas said the Americans also asked personal questions about himself. He did not elaborate.

Hayyat could not be reached but associates, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Hayyat was on a preaching tour in the United States when he first met Lindh and invited him to Bannu.

In an interview last January with The Associated Press, Iltimas said Lindh was earnest, devoted to his religious studies, but he showed the telltale signs of militancy and even shared some of the radical Taliban interpretations of his new faith.

``He often told me that the Taliban’s Islam was complete and they don’t fear anyone except God,″ Iltimas said then.

Lindh faces trial in U.S. District Court at Alexandria, Va., on charges that include conspiring to murder U.S. citizens and providing support to foreign terrorist organizations. He was captured last year during a prison uprising near Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.

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