A special Israel Police investigations unit arrested an Ethiopian citizen and two Eritrean citizens suspected of collaborating with Egyptian gangs in kidnapping African refugees who tried to infiltrate the border with Israel, a released gag order revealed Thursday.
The gangs allegedly extorted the families of the African citizens and asked for a ransom in exchange for their release.
A special unit has been conducting the investigation in recent months in which the gangs were discovered to be working with collaborators inside Israel.
The Egyptian gangs detained African refugees who tried to cross the Sinai border into Israel and reportedly tortured their hostages and held them in poor physical conditions. The gangs forced the hostages to contact their family members in Israel in order to get ransom money for the Africans' release and transfer into Israel.
In the end of November an Eritrean man told police that two months prior, his cousin, who was trying to cross into Israel, called him and told him that he was being held in Sinai and he would only be released for a ransom.
The police investigation found that the man who is supposed to receive the ransom money in Israel was reportedly an Eritrean citizen named Nagasi Habati. Police also uncovered that the money transfer is set to be conducted through an Ethiopian man residing in Israel named Fatawi Mahari.
Police received a similar complaint in September, where an Ethiopian claimed his cousin was being held hostage in Egypt and Mahari was again the contact for transferring the money to the abductors in Sinai. A man named Mohammad Ibrahim was also named a collaborator, and when police arrested him they found $50,000 in his home. Police later arrested Mahari and Nagasi in a Jerusalem apartment and found a sum of $100,000 in their possession.
Testimonies by other refugees who were held in Sinai also linked both Nagasi and Ibrahim as full accomplices in the extortion by the Egyptian kidnappers.
Nagasi, Ibrahim, and Mahari underwent extensive investigation by the police's special unit and an indictment was served against Nagasi Habati. All three African men were detained until the end of police proceedings.
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