Teenage girl from Visaginas suspected of ties with al-Qaeda

  • 2006-02-15
  • Staff and wire reports
VILNIUS - The State Security Depart-ment has begun an investigation to consider whether a citizen of Lithuania, Viktorija Zakurko, has fallen under the influence of international terrorists and/or Russia's special services. Zakurko is the lover of Mohammed Benhammedi, an alleged London-based financier of the al-Qaeda organization, who was arrested in England last week. "Today [Feb. 10] the State Security Department is investigating extremist Islamic terrorist ties leading from London to Voronezh through Lithuanian citizen Viktorija Zakurko," a department representative told the Baltic News Service.

In his words, State Security Department Director General Arvydas Pocius spoke about these allegations at a joint closed-door meeting of Parliament's national security and defense committee and the foreign affairs committee.

"This is a part of Lithuania's preventive measures aimed at strengthening the security of our country's citizens," the department officer said.

Citing the Daily Post, the news portal liverpool.co.uk reported that 19-year-old Viktorija Zakurko, whose father works as a security guard at the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, was the lover of Mohammed Benhammedi. The Baltic News Service reported that Viktorija Zakurko previously resided in Visaginas.

Vytautas Slaustas, deputy director general of INPP for physical safety, described Sergey Zakurko, senior inspector of the physical safety organization division, as a dutiful and reliable employee.

Zakurko confirmed through Slaustas that his daughter currently lived in Liverpool and that he had visited her "a long time ago." He expressed worry over the situation she had reportedly been involved in.

Slaustas said on Feb. 13 that Zakurko had not been suspended, but his work activities were restricted. "His access has been restricted to certain zones and areas with important equipment," said Slaustas. "There are no legal grounds for firing him, so he is continuing to work here."

"The State Security Department checks the reliability of all our employees, and these facts will be assessed. They may have influence on his future work at the power plant, but all circumstances have to be assessed," Slaustas had said prior to the decision to restrict Zakurko's movement on the plant's premises.

Zakurko moved in with Benhammedi, 39, last July when he paid for her to fly to Liverpool.

Her lover was charged with an immigration offense, after being arrested in a pre-dawn raid last week. Benhammedi had his assets seized for allegedly helping to fund al-Qaeda.

U.S. Treasury agents claimed Benhammedi was a key financier for an al-Qaeda terror group.

Earlier this week, Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian special service employee who received asylum in Great Britain, warned about the possible role of Russia's special services in the so-called cartoon row, which has spurred an outbreak of violence around the world.