WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government may have in its custody a second American who fought for the Taliban in Afghanistan, authorities said Wednesday after checking birth records that appear to support his claim that he was born in Louisiana.
The young man, identified by government officials as 22-year-old Yasser Esam Hamdi, was captured after a late November prison uprising at Mazar-e-Sharif, the same site where the military seized John Walker Lindh, a Northern Californian who fought for the Taliban.
Hamdi is one of 300 detainees being held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, authorities said.
Army Lt. Col. Dan Stoneking, however, cautioned that U.S. authorities have not confirmed that Hamdi was born in the United States.
Stoneking and other government officials noted that most of the detainees are giving false information about their backgrounds. At this stage of their investigation, however, they said Hamdi's claim of U.S. citizenship appears to be valid.
If true, Stoneking said, Hamdi probably would be removed from Guantanamo Bay and placed in the custody of federal law enforcement officials.
"There is an individual among the detainees in (Guantanamo) who has indicated his place of birth is Baton Rouge, La.," Stoneking said. "The Department of Justice has recently informed us that they have uncovered a corresponding birth certificate in Baton Rouge.
"However, whether or not that means this detainee is a U.S. citizen may involve some more legal determination. So we're not prepared to answer that at this point."
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