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Top Migrant Trafficker Arrested in Ethiopia: Italy

FILE - Migrants aboard a Guradia di Finanza and Navy military vessel are transferred from an operational processing facility on the southern Italian Island of Lampedusa, south of Sicily, to another center, on July 11, 2022.

A prominent migrant trafficking suspect was arrested in Ethiopia after two years on the run and has been extradited to Italy, Italian justice ministry sources said on Tuesday.

Temesghen Ghebru Ghebremedhin, 35, is "considered a key member of a vast transnational organization dedicated to smuggling migrants from North Africa to Europe," one of the sources told Reuters.

The Eritrean suspect was captured at Addis Ababa airport and charged with international organized crime membership and abetting illegal migration.

Judges in Palermo, Sicily, had issued an arrest warrant for Ghebremedhin and several other alleged human traffickers in 2020, the sources said.

Ghebremedhin was on Interpol's "red notice" fugitives list and was stopped while on his way to Australia, where other members of his alleged criminal group operate, the sources added.

Over the past decade, hundreds of thousands of migrants have landed on Italian shores, usually after paying smugglers thousands of dollars to risk their lives on rickety boats.

Italian prosecutors have launched several investigations into the lucrative Mediterranean migrant trafficking business, but securing arrests or convictions has proven very difficult.