'American Taliban' Arrives Back in U. S. By LARRY MARGA SAK. c The Associated Press ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Jan. 23) - John Walker Walker, the young Muslim convert accused of joining al-Qaida soldiers in Afghanistan, returned to the United States Wednesday under FBI custody to face criminal charges that he conspired to kill fellow Americans.

Walker flew back aboard a military cargo plane amid high secrecy and tight security, roughly two years after he left the United States for Yemen to study Arabic and Islam. He was captured in Afghanistan after a November uprising by Taliban prisoners in which a CIA officer was killed. Walker's flight landed at Dulles International Airport, just outside Washington, said a law enforcement official, speaking on the grounds of anonymity. The plane, with a large American flag painted on its tail, landed on one of the airport's primary runways. The FBI alleges in court papers that Walker in June became a foot soldier for Osama bin Laden, who thanked him personally for ''taking part in jihad,' ' or holy war. The FBI also claims Walker learned within weeks of joining bin Laden about suicide teams being sent to America.

Those allegations are largely based on statements Walker made to investigators during two days of interviews in December, when Walker waived his rights to speak with a lawyer.' 'Terrorists did not compel John Walker Walker to join them,' ' U. S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said. ''John Walker Walker chose terrorists. Our American system of justice will allow Walker the rights and due process that the terrorists he fought side by side with sought, and still seek, to destroy.' 'White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Wednesday that President Bush believes that Walker ''will now get the justice he deserves.' ' Fleischer called the criminal charges against Walker ''extraordinarily serious.' '''He will now have his day in court and he will be judged impartially and fairly,' ' Fleischer said. In an interview aired Wednesday on NBC Nightly News, Bush said he decided ''for a variety of reasons'' against trying Walker for treason, adding, ''I also am pleased that he's going to be afforded a chance to make his case in a court of law.' 'First lady Laura Bush expressed sympathy for Walker's parents.

''I'm sure his parents are unbelievably crushed and, you know, worried and sick, everything that every parent feels when their children have a problem like he has,' 's he said. The interview, conducted as part of an NBC special on the Bush White House, was taped prior before Walker's return from Afghanistan. AP-NY-01-23-02 1842 EST Copyright 2002 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

All active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.