By Adam Ali and Ayman Amzein.
Benghazi, 10 June 2015:
At the end of a risky sting operation, Benghazi police have arrested a . . .[restrict]people-smuggling gang along with 70 of the migrants they were preparing to launch into the Mediterranean on two flimsy open fishing boats and an inflatable raft.
An individual, who the police have not identified, had passed himself off as a migrant and led the police to gang and their passengers, who he said had each paid the smugglers up to $1,500 for their voyage.
The bust, near the desalination plant at Al-Kawafia, was resisted by the people-smugglers and reinforcements were needed before the gang was overcome. No details have been given of any casualties nor the number of smugglers arrested but the police said they were all Libyans.
The migrants were a mix of nationalities from Syria, Chad, Sudan, Egypt and Tunisia. They included women and children. They had been held for an undisclosed period in a small building without sanitation or running water. The SIM cards from their phones had been removed so that they could not give way their position.
Tarak Kharraz, of Benghazi’s Criminal Investigation Unit told the Libya Herald “We managed to capture the smugglers all of whom turn out to be Libyans. They are currently being questioned”.
Kharraz said that all the migrants caught in the raid would be returned to their countries.
People smuggling is apparently rare from the east of Libya. The great majority of migrants is launched by human-trafficking gangs from the west of the country which is controlled by Libya Dawn. This trade is dominated by local militias. It is not yet known what connections, if any, the arrested Benghazi smugglers may have had to any militia.