A notorious people smuggler known for his extremely brutal and harsh treatment of refugees was arrested in Sudan in an Interpol operation, the global police coordination agency said Thursday, Anadolu News Agency reports.
“Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam was the subject of two INTERPOL Red Notices, by Ethiopia and the Netherlands, for migrant smuggling, human trafficking and other related crimes,” the France-based agency said in a statement.
The Eritrean national “is wanted for heading a major criminal organisation behind the kidnapping, extortion and murder of East African migrants,” it said.
Quick action by the United Arab Emirates led to the arrest of Habtemariam, who had been on the global police agency’s radar since 2019 for reportedly smuggling and trafficking thousands of victims, the statement said.
His arrest came after nearly a year, following a March 2022 meeting that gathered officials from Ethiopia, Sudan, the Netherlands, the UAE and the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, or Europol.
“In March 2022, intelligence gathered by INTERPOL’s Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants unit prompted a task force meeting with participants from Ethiopia, Sudan, the Netherlands, the UAE, Europol and the Regional Operational Centre in support of the Khartoum process and the African Union Horn of Africa Initiative (ROCK),” the statement said.
This extensive cooperation produced fresh intelligence, enabling UAE officials to thoroughly investigate Habtemariam’s network and family members, uncovering money laundering activities and leading to Sudan, it added.
Arrested in Ethiopia in 2020, Habtemariam escaped from custody and was sentenced in absentia to life in prison.