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South Africa Seeks Return of Detainee

April 21, 2002|From Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. — South African officials are seeking the return of a former flight student who was detained on immigration charges after his name was found on a document in a cave in Afghanistan.

Issaya Nombo, 44, was arrested Monday by federal officials in North Carolina and was being held for overstaying his visa after finishing a pilot training course in Florida.

Federal officials have said they had no evidence to suggest Nombo was involved in terrorist activity. It's possible terrorists had been searching the Internet for flight school graduates of certain ethnicities for recruiting, according to the FBI.

South African embassy spokesman Vicky Maharaj said Friday that he didn't know whether South Africa would try to extradite Nombo or would wait for the United States to deport him.

"There will be a process that will start, depending upon the charges back in South Africa," he said.

The Justice Department declined to discuss the case Friday.

Nombo had been convicted of fraud in South Africa in March 2001 for buying pilot exams before taking a test to qualify as an airline captain.

SA Airways hired him as a relief pilot on 747 jetliners in February 2000 but suspended him about a month later. He was convicted after fleeing the country, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

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