He wanted to disembark at Malaga Port just as thousands of other cruise passengers do every week, but John Walker Lindh, also known as the 'American Taliban', was stopped by the police because he is considered a threat to national security due to his past links with the terrorist organisation Al Qaeda and is banned from entering Spain. “He didn’t even get to set foot on the gangway,” sources close to the case have said.
The incident occurred on Saturday 19 November when the Norwegian Sun cruise liner, which can carry up to 1,900 passengers, arrived in Malaga. It appears that Lindh had joined the ship in New York, and before reaching Malaga it had visited Lisbon, Gran Canaria, Gibraltar and Cadiz.
Spain’s National Police were aware from the start that Lindh was on board, because the Schengen area information system had issued an alert. His movements were closely monitored but there was no evidence that he had tried to disembark at any of the other ports of call.
The 'American Taliban' was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2002 for two offences of cooperating with the enemy. He had been captured in Afghanistan with a group of Taliban members, and was shot in a leg during the riot at Mazar-i-Sharif prison in which a CIA agent was killed. Lindh was released from jail three years early, in 2019, for good behaviour.
John Walker Lindh is said to come from a middle-class Catholic family and grew up in Mill Valley, north of San Francisco. He abandoned catholicism and converted to Islam when he was 16, and a year later he left home and went to Yemen to study Arabic, three years before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
From there he went to Pakistan in 2000 and then to Afghanistan, where he spent time in an Al Qaeda training camp as a volunteer, which is where his nickname comes from.