Are there Korean ISIS fighters? Government launches investigation

September 15, 2014
This undated image shows a frame from a video released by Islamic State militants Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, that purports to show the killing of journalist James Foley by the militant group. Foley, from Rochester, N.H., went missing in 2012 in northern Syria while on assignment for Agence France-Press and the Boston-based media company GlobalPost. (AP Photo)

This undated image shows a frame from a video released by Islamic State militants Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, that purports to show the killing of journalist James Foley by the militant group. A recently captured ISIS fighter says there’s even a Korean face behind the mask. (AP Photo)

By Yi Whan-woo

The Korean government is investigating whether South Korean nationals are among foreign jihadists fighting for the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Monday.

“We’re working closely to find out if our nationals are among the ISIS jihadists, although we believe our people are most likely not involved,” the ministry said. “However, it will take some time until we can truly confirm this.”

The announcement came after an ISIS fighter was captured by Iraqi authorities, Sunday. A number of foreign fighters are believed to have joined the Sunni extremist group in recent months. The terrorist organization operates in Iraq and Syria and has killed thousands of soldiers and civilians in the two countries.

“There are people hailing from all over the world that have joined ISIS,” Hamad al-Tamimi, 18, told CNN. “From Norway, from America, Canada, Somalia, Korea, China, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Lebanon and European countries such as Germany and France.”

Al-Tamimi said he was a religious studies student in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia before ISIS influenced and recruited him online.

According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), ISIS can rally nearly 31,500 jihadists across Iraq and Syria.

A CIA source said more than 15,000 foreign fighters from 80 countries, including 2,000 Westerners, have gone to Syria.

Concerns over foreign jihadists joining ISIS has risen as the terrorist group recently executed two American journalists ― James Foley and Steven Sotloff ― and also British aid worker David Haines. U.S. and U.K authorities suspect the second victim, Foley, was beheaded by a British-born ISIS fighter, Abdel Majed Abdel Bary. He traveled to Syria last year to fight with ISIS, according to the U.S. intelligence officials.

Syria is among the countries that do not have diplomatic relations with South Korea, alongside North Korea and Cuba.

Several South Korean enterprises such as Hanwha Engineering & Construction are located in Iraq.

One of the country’s major construction companies is working on the Bismayah New City project (BNCP), one of the largest city development projects in the history of the Middle East. In Bismayah, 10 kilometers southeast of Baghdad, a $7.75 billion-worth project is underway to construct social infrastructure and 100,000 homes for 600,000 people on 1,830 hectares of land.

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