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(2nd LD) S. Korean man under investigation over suspected links to terror group

Defense 16:10 July 05, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS more details in paras 3-4, 7-8)

SEOUL, July 5 (Yonhap) -- A South Korean man has been under investigation on charges of stealing a device used in military explosives while serving in the Army and collecting or uploading video clips related to the Islamic State (IS) militant group, defense ministry officials said Friday.

The 23-year-old man, identified only by his surname, Park, allegedly stole at least one spark plug for explosives in October, 2017, when he was receiving training at an Army engineering unit as an explosive specialist, according to the officials.

Investigators also found a video clip on his cellphone on how to make homemade ammunition as well as a mobile app used by IS members and supporters. Also found at his home was a machete that looks similar to broad blade knives that have been used by terrorists, officials said.

The suspect had collected video clips and other materials related to IS and posted them online since 2016 until recently, the officials said, adding that he is suspected of exchanging emails with suspected members of the militant group.

"The man is charged with stealing military equipment and violating the anti-terrorism act. After wrapping up its probe, the ministry's Criminal Investigation Command referred the case to its prosecution on Monday," a ministry official said.

Prosecutors sought to arrest the man, but the request for a warrant was denied by a military court, which said there was little risk of him fleeing or destroying evidence, according to the official.

Park denied any criminal intentions behind the alleged acts, claiming that he did so "out of curiosity," according to an investigator.

"(The suspect has said that) he downloaded the IS-related app out of curiosity, and he posted the group-related video clips only on Ilbe several times," he said, referring to a South Korean extremist conservative online community.

Authorities began the investigation of him upon receiving intelligence from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. As the suspect was discharged from the military earlier this week, part of the probe has been carried out by civilian prosecutors, another official noted.

The Criminal Investigation Command (Yonhap)

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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