World’s ‘most wanted’ human trafficker caught – Interpol — RT World News

Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam was previously sentenced to life in absentia for blackmailing African migrants.

A notorious trafficker convicted of smuggling thousands of people during Europe’s migrant crisis has been arrested in an international operation led by the UAE in coordination with Interpol.

Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam, an Eritrean national who has been on Interpol’s radar since 2019, was arrested in Sudan on January 1. According to the UAE Interior Ministry, he led an organization “kidnapping, mistreating and extorting East African migrants to smuggle them into Europe.”

Habtemariam was originally arrested in Ethiopia in 2020, but escaped from court in Addis Ababa the following year. An Ethiopian court sentenced him to life in prison in absentia for human trafficking in 2021. Habtemariam is accused of holding refugees and migrants in warehouses in Libya, and extorting money from them and their families. thousands of dollars, Reuters reported at the time, citing legal documents.

He is also wanted in the Netherlands, with the Dutch government describing him as “one of the most notorious and cruel traffickers in the world.” According to Dutch authorities, Habtemariam runs a migrant camp in Libya, where residents are detained by force, beaten and raped.

Officials say Habtemariam has exploited the plight of people desperately trying to escape to Europe, which has seen large numbers of migrants since 2014. Many of them have been forced to languish in poverty. camps in Libya and embark on a dangerous journey across the Mediterranean on overcrowded and cramped roads. Boat is not safe.

“It is estimated that since 2014, Kidane has been responsible for the trafficking of hundreds of victims. His arrest will disable an adult smuggling route to Europe and protect thousands of people at risk of exploitation.” The UAE Interior Ministry said Thursday in a statement on its website.

Brigadier General Saeed Abdullah al Suwaidi, a top anti-narcotics official in the United Arab Emirates, said the arrest of the suspect had allowed the closure of the route through which migrants were transported from Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia to Libya. From there, they tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea and land on the shores of Europe.

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