Missing Korean Teen Spotted in Van to Syrian Border

      January 20, 2015 09:42

      A Korean teenager who went missing in southern Turkey was spotted on CCTV boarding a van and heading toward the Syrian border.

      The CCTV footage shows a Korean-made Carnival van arriving in front of the Mertur Hotel in Kilis, where the teenager, identified as Kim (18), was staying.

      The door of the van slides open as soon as Kim emerges from the hotel wearing a white surgical mask and carrying a backpack, and the young man gets in without putting up any resistance.

      One Turkish official who viewed the footage said Kim does not appear to have been kidnapped but shown up according to a prearranged plan. CCTV footage from inside the hotel shows Kim alone walking toward the entrance.

      Just minutes later, the van was seen on the Turkish side of the Syrian border 4 km from the hotel. It is unclear exactly where it was headed and Turkish police are still looking for the vehicle.

      Kim apparently did not pass through a border checkpoint there.

      Members of the Islamist terror group ISIS avoid border checkpoints to get to Syria and prefer clandestine routes in remote parts of the region.

      One hotel employee who saw Kim leave the building told the Chosun Ilbo, "Kilis is a small town, but there are CCTVs in many places. Police took CCTV footage from all of the cameras near the hotel."

      The revelations answer many questions regarding Kim's whereabouts after he arrived in Turkey on Jan. 8 and checked into the hotel the following day.

      Authorities here are minded to believe that Kim was accosted by an ISIS recruiter on the Internet and voluntarily went to Turkey and crossed the border into Syria to join the group.

      Kim exchanged several e-mails with ISIS members.

      National Police Agency Commissioner Genera Kang Shin-myeong said, "So far, we have no information that suggests he was kidnapped."

      After searching through Kim's personal computer, police learned that he communicated several times via social media with a Turkish national until December last year. Kim mentioned ISIS several times in those messages, according to police.

      Police have also learned that Kim exchanged several messages on safe chat messenger surespot. It allows users to exchange messages without going through a server and encrypts content.

      ISIS apparently favor surespot, Skype and other mobile messenger services when recruiting new members from around the world.

      "While communicating on Twitter, Kim recommended switching to surespot and the message thread ended," a police spokesman here said.

      Police are investigating whether the person Kim was communicating with via surespot was a Turkish individual named Hassan. Police interviewed Kim's mother on Sunday and a member of an evangelical church identified by his surname Hong (45), who accompanied the young man to Turkey at the request of his parents.

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