Sudan police save 85 minors from trafficking network: Interpol

The networks abducted migrants and demanded ransoms, the agency said, and forced their victims to work or beg. (File/AFP)
Updated 10 September 2018
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Sudan police save 85 minors from trafficking network: Interpol

  • The networks abducted migrants and demanded ransoms, the agency said, and forced their victims to work or beg
  • Two men and twelve women were arrested and around $20,000 of suspected ransom money was seized

DAKAR: Nearly 100 human trafficking victims have been rescued in a major police operation in Sudan, including dozens of children forced to work in illegal gold mines, Interpol said on Monday.
Operation Sawiyan involved 200 Sudanese police officers who rescued 94 people, including 85 minors, from criminal networks in and around the capital, Khartoum, in an Interpol-led week-long crackdown last month, the global police organization said.
Many of the victims were from other African countries and believed to have been traveling toward Europe when they fell into the hands of traffickers, said Tim Morris, Interpol’s executive director of police services.
“We believe that they were transiting through Sudan and then kidnapped en route and diverted into these forced labor activities,” Morris told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The victims came from Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Niger, Sudan and South Sudan, he said.
Police found some children as young as ten handling dangerous chemicals in open-air gold mines east of Khartoum, while others were forced to beg in the city, said Interpol.
They also arrested 14 suspected traffickers and seized 20,000 dollars which they believe included ransom money sent by a victim’s family to buy his freedom, the organization added.
Sudan is a source and transit country for African migrants hoping to reach Europe via Libya and the Mediterranean, according to the UN Organization for Migration (IOM).
The north African nation has one of the world’s highest rates of slavery — with about 465,000 people enslaved or one in 80 of its population — the 2018 Global Slavery Index found.
Children separated from their parents or traveling alone are at a high risk of exploitation, sexual and physical violence, said a spokeswoman for the IOM office in Sudan.
“In many cases these children are exposed to forced unpaid labor including street begging, gold mining, street vending, agriculture and other hazardous working conditions with limited access to education, protection and health services,” she said.
The IOM and partners have provided food and health care to the children rescued in Operation Sawiyan, who will later be asked about where and how they were trafficked, Interpol said.
The operation was part of a series of Interpol raids on human trafficking in North Africa and the Sahel that are largely focused on migration routes, according to Morris.
“Episodes like this one where you see the terrible conditions and exploitation ... show that you have to treat this particular crime issue right up and down the supply chain and not just at one end,” he said.


US Senator Graham urges Trump to meet Pakistan PM Khan

Updated 20 January 2019
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US Senator Graham urges Trump to meet Pakistan PM Khan

  • US and Pakistan should have “strategic engagement”, not transactional relationship
  • The American senator sees a “unique opportunity” to change diplomatic direction of US-Pakistan ties

ISLAMABAD:  US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on Sunday President Donald Trump should meet Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan as soon as possible to reset long-difficult US relations with Pakistan and push for a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan.

The comments, which add to growing signs of improved relations between Islamabad and Washington, come amid efforts to press on with talks between the Taliban and the United States aimed at an agreement to end 17 years of war in Afghanistan.

"I've seen things change here and all in a positive direction," Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who has generally been a staunch supporter of Trump, told a news conference in Islamabad.

He said a meeting with Khan, who has declared strong support for a peace agreement in Afghanistan, would leave Trump "far more enthusiastic about the region than he is today".

"With Prime Minister Khan we have a unique opportunity to change our relationship," he said. A previously transactional relationship, based on rewards for services rendered, should be replaced by "strategic engagement", including a free trade agreement, he said.

US relations with Pakistan have long been dogged by suspicions that elements in the Pakistani establishment were aiding the Taliban, a charge Islamabad strongly denies. However, relations have appeared to improve in recent months amid efforts to push the Taliban towards a peace deal.

Trump, who has in the past argued for the United States to withdraw from Afghanistan, has made it clear he wants to see a peace accord reached rapidly although the Taliban have so far refused to talk directly with the Afghan government.

Graham's trip to Pakistan coincided with a visit by Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, and top military commanders including General Joseph Votel, commander of US Central Command.

Khalilzad left Islamabad without announcing a new date for talks with Taliban representatives, who have refused further meetings until the US side agrees to discuss a timetable for withdrawing its forces.

The uncertainty has been increased by reports that Trump is prepared to order more than 5,000 US troops out of Afghanistan, a move that would represent a sharp change in course from Washington's previous policy of stepping up military action against the Taliban.

With Afghan forces suffering thousands of casualties a year and struggling to hold back the Taliban insurgency, the reports have caused alarm in Kabul, prompting many close to the government to question the US commitment to Afghanistan.

Asked whether there had been confusion over the US message, Graham, who has called for a Senate hearing on Trump's plans to withdraw US troops from Syria and Afghanistan, said "without a doubt" but added that he did not believe Washington would stand by and allow a Taliban victory.

"The world's not going to let the Taliban take Afghanistan over by force of arms. That would be unconscionable," he told Reuters. "Any president who let that happen would go down in history very poorly."