An suspected top human trafficker who was arrested in South Sudan has been handed over to Somalia for prosecution, according to officials in Mogadishu.
The Somali government says the man, identified as Abdulkadir Omar Abdulle, led a trafficking network in South Sudan that helped smuggle thousands of people across East Africa to Libya, where they awaited a possible journey to Europe.
Abdulle, a Somali citizen in his early 40s, was wanted on charges of trafficking and alleged abuses — including rape and murder — against the people his network was smuggling.
The Somali ambassador to South Sudan, Hussein Haji Ahmed, told VOA's Somali Service that Abdulle ran a network of more than 30 smugglers based in South Sudan.
Abdulle was arrested in South Sudan's capital of Juba last week. Ahmed said police told him that Abdulle was expecting new arrivals from the border with Uganda when he was captured at one of the secret homes he maintained for the smugglers.
"Police surrounded the house. He tried to jump over the wall, but was captured," the ambassador said.
Abdulle was flown Thursday to Mogadishu, where Somali authorities took him into custody and are now holding him in a prison run by the National Intelligence and Security Agency.
Suspect 'wanted for a long time'
"He was wanted for a long time by Interpol police from Somalia and South Sudan, and they have coordinated on his handover," said the ambassador.
"He was a man who is conscious of his security. He was discreet and has managed to protect himself. When there is an anti-trafficking operation, he goes to a hideout in a border area between Uganda and South Sudan. He hides there."
Ahmed said police obtained information about the phone Abdulle was using and tracked it, leading to his capture in Juba.
Officials said Abdulle's network smuggles 600 to 700 people every month. About 90 percent of them are Somalis, most of them trying to leave Somalia due to insecurity and a lack of jobs.
Many of the people being smuggled were subjected to beatings or rape, and were sometimes held hostage for ransom.
The traffickers took videos of the abuses and sent them to the victims' relatives, to pressure them to send money quickly.
"It's appalling the kind of treatment women receive in the hands of these traffickers, it's inhumane," Ahmed said. "Some of their victims are young people, 13, 14 years old. They suffer unspeakable abuses."
Asked whether Abdulle will be prosecuted in Somalia or handed over to other countries, Ahmed said the Somali government wants to prosecute him in Somalia pending an investigation.
"We want him for illegal trafficking, we want him for the death of people being smuggled, we want him for forging documents, and we want him for abuses against the young people in South Sudan and Sudan both, and other abuses which happened along the border between South Sudan and Uganda," he said. "He will face justice in Somalia."
Three other Somalis suspected of involvement in the trafficking network are being held in Juba, where they are under investigation, Ahmed said.