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Bangladesh arrests at least 19 suspected people smugglers

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Authorities in Bangladesh have arrested at least 19 suspected people smugglers following the killings last month of 26 Bangladeshis in Libya who were trying to reach Europe illegally, police said Monday.

Detectives have arrested six people since Sunday in Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital, in connection with the migrant workers who were killed or injured in Libya, raising the total number of detained suspects to 19, said Abdul Baten, additional commissioner of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police.

A series of arrests have been made in Dhaka and elsewhere in recent weeks, with Bangladesh's police chief saying the people smugglers will not be spared.

In last month's attack in Libya, the family of a slain Libyan human trafficker attacked a group of migrants in a town that recently had changed hands amid the fighting over the country’s capital, killing 26 Bangladeshis and four African migrants.

The Libyan government has said 11 other Bangladeshis were wounded in the May 28 attack. The U.N. migration agency said the migrants were shot and killed in a smuggling warehouse in the desert town of Mizdah, where a group of migrants were being held.

Baten said the crackdown on the rogue recruiters of migrant workers and human smugglers continued after two separate cases were filed by the victims’ families following the killings.

He said it appeared that the victims of the attack had been trafficked to Libya via India, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

He also said the victims were detained in various camps in the North African nation and subjected to physical and mental torture.

The traffickers made video and audio recordings of the victims and sent them to their families in Bangladesh to extract money, Baten said.

Bangladesh’s inspector general of police, Benazir Ahmed, had earlier said that “the way our people were brutally killed is unacceptable.”

“No one will be spared who has deceived our citizens … took them overseas and are responsible for these miserable deaths,” he said.

Migrants fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East typically pass through Libya on their way to Europe, departing Tripoli’s rocky coast in inflatable dinghies.

The Libyan coast guard, trained by the European Union to keep migrants from reaching European shores, intercepts boats at sea and returns them to Libya, where many migrants land in detention centres rife with torture and abuse.

Sending workers abroad is crucial for Bangladesh's economy. Some 10 million Bangladeshis working overseas send home about $20 billion per year.

Saudi Arabia has long been the largest source of remittances, followed by the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Libya, Iraq, Singapore, Malaysia, the United States and Britain.

Julhas Alam, The Associated Press

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