One of world’s “most wanted” human traffickers arrested, says Interpol

A British immigration officer (L) and an Interforce security officer (2L), escort migrants who were met at sea by a Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) lifeboat as they attempted to cross the English Channel off the coast of Dungeness, England cross, December 9, 2022.


Cairo – An Eritrean national, described as one of the world’s “most wanted” human traffickers, has been arrested in Sudan following an international manhunt led by the United Arab Emirates, Interpol said on Thursday. The suspect, identified as Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam, is accused of leading a criminal organization that kidnaps, blackmails and murders East African migrants try to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Libya, the France-based police agency said in an online statement.

He was arrested on Sunday in a “major international police operation led by the United Arab Emirates, based on information shared through Interpol,” according to a statement from the UAE’s Interior Ministry, published by The Khaleej Times.

A breakthrough in the manhunt came after UAE authorities began closely following Habtemariam’s organization and members of his family, uncovering money laundering patterns that led them to Sudan, the agency said. Interpol first began monitoring Habtemariam’s activities in 2019.

Habtemariam had been the subject of two Interpol red notices, one from Ethiopia and the other from the Netherlands, the agency said. Dutch authorities accused Habtemariam of running a camp in Libya that housed thousands of migrants.

Habtemariam was found guilty in absentia and sentenced to life in prison after escaping custody in Ethiopia during the 2020 human smuggling trial.

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Libya has become the dominant transit point for migrants seeking a better quality of life in Europe in recent years. The oil-rich country fell into chaos after a NATO-backed insurgency that toppled and killed longtime autocrat Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Human traffickers did profited from the chaos in LibyaSmuggling migrants across the long land borders of the six-nation country.

According to a tweet by UAE Interior Minister Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the international operation lasted nine months and also involved Dutch, Ethiopian and Sudanese authorities, Interpol said.

“Thanks to the professionalism and dedication of our police officers, the world’s most wanted human trafficker will no longer be able to commit his despicable acts,” Saeed Abdullah al-Suwaidi, director of the UAE’s Directorate-General for Counternarcotics, said in a separate statement quoted by Interpol.

Sudanese police did not respond to requests for comment. One of world’s “most wanted” human traffickers arrested, says Interpol

Rick Schindler

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