LONDON (AP/ABC7) - Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor wanted by the United States for revealing highly classified surveillance programs, is going to Ecuador to seek asylum, the South American country's foreign minister and the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks said Sunday.
WikiLeaks, which says it is giving Snowden legal assistance, said in a statement his asylum request will be formally processed once he arrives in Ecuador. Ricardo Patino, the country's foreign minister, said on his Twitter account that his government has received a request for asylum from Snowden.
"He is bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks," the anti-secrecy group said on its website.
Snowden was believed to have landed in Russia on Sunday after being allowed to leave Hong Kong.
He was on an Aeroflot flight from Hong Kong that arrived in Moscow shortly after 5 p.m. (1300gmt) Sunday and was booked on a flight to fly to Cuba on Monday, the Russian news agencies ITAR-Tass and Interfax reported, citing unnamed airline officials.
Snowden did not leave Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport with the other passengers and was not seen by a crowd of journalists waiting in the arrivals lounge. Interfax reported that he was spending the night in the transit zone of the airport because he did not have a visa to enter Russia and had rented a room in a capsule hotel.
A U.S. official on Sunday said Snowden's passport was annulled before he left Hong Kong for Russia. Snowden's travel plans could be complicated - but not thwarted - by a lack of passport. The U.S. official said that if a senior official in a country or airline ordered it, a country could overlook the withdrawn passport.