Libya arrests senior coastguard official over human trafficking, drowning of migrants

Libya arrests senior coastguard official over human trafficking, drowning of migrants
Abd al-Rahman Milad is the first senior coastguard official to be arrested over human trafficking.
2 min read
Traffickers have stepped up operations in Libya since 2011 [Getty]
Libya's UN-recognised government arrested a senior coastguard commander on Wednesday over the drowning of dozens of people.

Coastguard commander Abd al-Rahman Milad, who is also known as Bija, is alleged to be one of the most ruthless human traffickers in the world and is wanted by Interpol.

Bija is currently being held by Rada special forces after being arrested in the Hay-al-Andalus district of Tripoli.

Despite numerous allegations against Libyan authorities and coastguard officials, Bija is the first senior coastguard figure to be arrested for human trafficking.

The UN Security Council in 2018 approved the sanctions against al-Milad and five other fivgures alleged to be leading human trafficking operations in Libya.

Bija was described at the time as someone “that is consistently linked with violence against migrants and other human smugglers”.

Until the sanctions came into force, he led a coastguard unit at Zawiya, however was later suspended and dismissed.

Observers have raised questions over the timing of Bija's arrest, as he had previously been allowed to move freely in Libya's Tripoli-controlled areas. He had also joined the government's efforts to repel forces loyal to rogue general Khalifa Haftar.

In June, however, Bija appeared in a video threatening to expose alleged state corruption in Tripoli.

Libya has long been a transit hub for migrants, but smugglers have stepped up their lucrative business in the years that followed the 2011 ouster of Muammar Gaddafi.

The fate of migrants has come under intense security since film footage emerged last year of Africans auctioned off as slaves in Libya, drawing outrage from African governments.

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