Missing teen’s final hours in Turkey were filmed

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Missing teen’s final hours in Turkey were filmed

CCTV footage from the day a Korean teenager went missing in Turkey 11 days ago traced him to meeting a mysterious man who spoke Arabic, according to a Korean government official Tuesday.

Then he disappeared, presumably across the border to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) rebels in Syria.

The missing teen, 18, identified by the surname Kim, and the unidentified man were last spotted in a small village for Syrian refugees on Jan. 10.

Since Kim went missing, Korean authorities have been tracking his whereabouts and are considering the possibility that he may have illegally entered Syria to contact ISIS, a radical Islamist group.

Kim left his hotel in Kilis, a city in southern Turkey bordering Syria, on Jan. 10 at 8 a.m. wearing a backpack, which was confirmed through the hotel’s CCTV footage obtained by Turkish police.

An official of the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Kim was spotted lingering in front of a mosque across from the hotel, where he met up with a local man around 25 minutes later. The mysterious man gestured to a vehicle. They got into a black Kia Carnival vehicle at around 8:30 a.m. and drove off.

Turkish police confiscated CCTV footage from the hotel and the neighborhood after Korean officials reported that Kim was missing.

They could not confirm the mystery man’s identity from the footage.

But they did get the vehicle’s Syrian license plate number, which was tracked to an illegal cabdriver, whom they questioned in Turkey.

The Syrian driver told police that he was hired to show up at the mosque near the Kilis hotel between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. by a “normal-looking man.”

He drove his passengers eastward for 25 minutes, or some 18 kilometers, arriving in Besiriye, a small refugee village near the Syrian border.

He said he was hired to drop off the passengers at the village, and that was his only involvement.

The driver said that the man spoke to him in Arabic and did not speak with Kim at all as they sat in the back seat.

Footage from a “black box” camera inside the car showed that Kim and the mysterious man did not exchange any words during the ride.

“It appears the two people intentionally kept silent,” a Foreign Ministry official said, “because they feared revealing their identities.”

After getting out of the car, Kim and his companion could not be traced.

Local police tried to find witnesses who had seen someone who fit Kim’s description without success.

Middle school dropout Kim arrived in Turkey on Jan. 8 with a family friend, a 45-year-old identified by the surname Hong, telling his parents that he wanted to meet a pen pal called “Hassan.” On Jan. 12, Hong reported to the Korean Embassy in Ankara that Kim had gone missing.

Police confirmed Tuesday that Kim had exchanged messages over his computer and social networking services with someone in Turkey. On Oct. 4, he asked on Twitter, “How to join ISIS? Does anyone know? I want join ISIS.”

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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