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Iranian Arrested In Bishkek Airport With Hajj Visas

Muslims arrive at King Abdulaziz International Airport at the Red Sea port city of Jeddah to take part in the annual hajj pilgrimage on November 8.
BISHKEK -- Kyrgyzstan's National Security Service (SNB) says an Iranian citizen has been arrested in the Bishkek airport with dozens of hajj visas issued by Saudi Arabia, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

The SNB said today that a 44-year-old Iranian, whose name was not given, was carrying 146 Saudi visas for the hajj when he was arrested on November 6 before boarding a flight.

The visas were apparently issued for Kyrgyz to take part in the hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

The visas are usually sent blank to a country and the names of hajj participants written in by that country's officials. But the SNB said the seized visas -- which were found in a hidden compartment of a suitcase -- had Iranian names written on them.

Two Kyrgyz citizens have also been arrested in connection with the incident. All three are currently being held at the SNB detention center in Bishkek.

The SNB said investigators were checking into the activities of Kyrgyz organizations involved in assisting people to make the hajj to see if any hajj visas intended for Kyrgyz citizens may have been sold.

This year's hajj will be from November 14-18.