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Bangladeshis killed in Libya: Injured survivors recount haunting experience

  • Published at 01:34 pm October 4th, 2020
Photo shows some Bangladeshi human trafficking victims, repatriated from Libya on Wednesday, September 30, 2020 Collected

On 28 May, 26 Bangladeshi citizens were killed and 12 others injured, in a gun attack by human traffickers in Mizdah, Libya

On May 28 this year, 30 people, including 26 Bangladeshis, were killed in a gun attack by some human traffickers in the desert town of Mizdah, some 180km from Tripoli, the capital of Libya.

The incident also left 12 Bangladeshi citizens injured. The bullet wound scars or other marks of injuries are still visible on their bodies.

Citizens of Bangladesh, Nigeria, Ghana, and Sudan who wanted to go to Italy or France in Europe, were taken to war-torn Libya via India-Dubai-Egypt on travel visas. There, youths from Bangladesh and other countries were sold, or kidnapped and tortured for ransom money.

Hundreds of youths from low income families who leave their homeland to earn euros are beaten to death if the ransom is not paid.

Janu Miah, one of the 12 Bangladeshis injured in the May 28 gun attack, survived to tell the tale. He saw human traffickers kill 30 people, including 26 of his fellow countrymen, with his own eyes.

With the help of the Embassy of Bangladesh in Libya, nine of the 12 injured Bangladeshis, including Janu Miah, returned to Bangladesh. The other three injured Bangladeshis are yet to return.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of police held a press conference on Sunday with the nine returnees present.

Tale of horror

Janu Miah said on May 15, human traffickers in Libya were taking 30 Bangladeshis, including him, to Tripoli from Benghazi.

They were kept in a garden at night. Before they could reach Tripoli the next day, a human trafficking mafia abducted 29 Bangladeshis from their vehicles. One Bangladeshi somehow managed to escape capture by hiding. 

He continued: “Soon after I was taken hostage by the mafia in the desert, I saw an African man’s dead body lying there. There were wounds all over his body and he was still bleeding.

“Fear made my throat dry; I asked my captors to give me some water. As I took a sip, they pointed towards the dead body and said we would also be in the same state if each of us did not pay them $12,000.”

Janu Miah said the captors beat 2-3 people to death everyday when they refused to pay the ransom money. “We also went through barbaric torture. They used to give us a small amount of food every night so that we could barely stay alive.”

There were 130-140 people from Nigeria, Sudan, and Ghana, including 30-40 women, who were also held captive, he added.

May 28, 2020

Describing the day 26 Bangladeshis were killed, Janu Miah said: “The mafia used to enter the camp and beat us 3 times daily. We were severely beaten around 11am on that day too. Then they came to beat us again around 4pm.

“Some of the captives from other countries couldn’t bear it anymore and killed some of the human traffickers. 

“Hearing this news, other members of the mafia came and started firing their guns haphazardly, killing 30 people. 12 of us were injured.”

A bullet entered one side of Janu Miah's leg and went out the other.

Tarikul Islam, another injured Bangladeshi, said: “A member of the mafia took us to a small local hospital but we couldn’t get treatment there. Then we were taken to another hospital; our wounds weren’t treated there either.

“After midnight, they abandoned us in a pile of dirt in the desert.”

Tarikul continued: “We limped to a house and took refuge there. We then called a local army member; they came and took us to Tripoli Medical University but they did not admit us there. Later, our embassy admitted us to the hospital.”

Regarding going abroad, most of the victims said they were assured of work visas in Europe by local brokers and signed agreements for Tk12-15 lakh.

Then, as instructed by the brokers, they arrived at the airport in Benghazi from either Hazrat Shahjalal Airport in Dhaka or Mumbai airport, via Dubai-Egypt. They were sold to human traffickers in Libya after they arrived in Benghazi. 

They were then tempted with high paying jobs and were being taken to Tripoli, where they were sold to human traffickers for a second time. 

In the meantime, members of the ring in Bangladesh worked to collect various sums of money from the families of the hostages, including extra money in the name of food expenses, relocation to Tripoli, and job placement. Some of them have already been arrested by law enforcement agencies of the country.

Talking to this correspondent, Tarikul’s mother Aysha Begum said broker Kamal pushed Tarikul to the jaws of death after taking Tk4.5 lakh under pretext of sending him [Tarikul] to Europe.

Kamal has been arrested but Aysha demanded punishment for everyone involved in the crime.

Of the 12 injured human trafficking victims, nine have returned to Bangladesh. The returnees are Firoj Bepari, Janu Miah, Omor Sheikh, Sajal Miah, Tarikul Islam, Bokul Hossain, Mohammad Ali, Sohag Ahmed, and Syedul Islam.

Three others — Bappi Dutta, Samrat Khalashi, and Sajid — are still in Libya. 

Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of police, Md Abdullah el Baki of CID’s Organized Crime unit, said the victims will soon be presented in court to testify.

So far, 44 accused have been arrested in 26 cases filed for human trafficking to Libya, and for the killings. Some of the arrested have already confessed to their involvement in the crimes. 

A red notice will soon be issued through the International Criminal Police Organization, commonly known as Interpol, to arrest the key accused and brokers living abroad, added the police official.

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