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Authorities Arrest Worlds Most Wanted Human Trafficker In Sudan

Interpol announced that Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam, an Eritrean fugitive labelled "the world's most wanted" people smuggler has been detained in Sudan in coordination with UAE authorities.

Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam was arrested in Sudan on January 1.
Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam was arrested in Sudan on January 1.

Habtemariam is accused of running a global people smuggling network and leader of a camp in Libya where hundreds of African migrants attempting to gain safe passage to Europe were allegedly kidnapped, raped and extorted.

The suspect was the subject of two Interpol red notices by the Netherlands and Ethiopia. He was detained by Sudanese police in coordination with UAE authorities on January 1, UAE interior ministry official Saeed Abdullah al-Suwaidi announced on Thursday.

Interpol said that Habtemariam had been on their radar since 2019, and had a reputation for "particularly cruel and violent treatment of migrants."

In a statement issued by al-Suwaidi, he said: "We have now shut down one of the most important trafficking routes into Europe, which illegally moved thousands of migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan, through Libya and into Europe."

al-Suwaidi added that his arrest followed a joint investigative operation that began last year, between Interpol and UAE, where they tracked illicit financial transactions made by his brother.

In 2020, Habtemariam was arrested in Ethiopia but managed to escape custody, resulting in him being sentenced in absentia to life in prison.

Interpol said that the arrest would deal "a significant blow to a major smuggling route towards Europe and protect thousands more from being exploited at the hands of the crime group."

Authorities said to expect more arrests as the joint investigation continues working with several other member states.

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