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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - SEOUL: A Russian man who sought asylum in South Korea was deported on charges of having links to Al-Qaeda, Korean police confirmed on Monday.
According to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, the Ukraine-born Russian national was arrested in December and extradited in January.
He was found to be an “instructor” of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front group operating in Syria.
Korean police acted on an Interpol red notice to detain the man, who was already wanted in Russia.
“Police obtained intelligence that an Al-Qaeda instructor had sneaked into South Korea to apply for refugee status,” a police spokesman said.
“With the help of the Federal Security Service in Russia, we identified and arrested the suspect to hand him over to the Russian government.”
He added that the militant had fled to South Korea in November 2016 and sought asylum twice — in 2017 and 2019.
The application was rejected both times.
The arrest raises concerns that more terrorists from former Soviet republics, especially in Central Asia, may be operating in the country, some of them under the guise of seeking asylum.
In November, a Kazakhstani worker was arrested by South Korean authorities for financing a terrorist group in Central Asia.
The suspect, in his 20s, entered the country in 2016 and had been staying illegally without a visa, according to police.
The man was accused of having transferred about $1,000 to a terrorist group.
He was the first foreigner to be arrested for breaching South Korea’s act for countering the financing of terrorism, which was enforced in 2017.
In February last year, a UN Security Council report warned that terrorists operating in Central Asia would try to enter South Korea, which has a large community of migrants from the region. Most of them originate from Uzbekistan.
“Many ethnic Uzbeks request deportation from Turkey to the Republic of Korea, where the total number of Uzbeks is estimated to be between 20,000 and 30,000,” the report said. “Some Uzbek migrant workers in the Republic of Korea are reported to have been radicalized and to be a source of financing for the travel of extremists to the Syrian Arab Republic.”
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