Italy jails Somali trafficker for 30 years for raping migrants

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ROME — A Somali trafficker who raped and attacked migrants he had led through the desert to Libya to make the perilous crossing to Italy has been sentenced to 30 years in prison by an Italian court, media reported.

Mouhamud Elmi Muhidin, 34, was identified by several survivors of a boat wreck near the Italian island of Lampedusa in October 2013 in which 366 migrants died, the reports said Friday.

He was involved in the wreck, but managed to find a boat to take him to safety on Lampedusa.

The court in Agrigente in Sicily, southern Italy, convicted Muhidin of human trafficking, sexual violence, and criminal association with a view to trafficking illegal migrants.

Several witnesses in the trial, including young girls, recognised him as one of the organisers of several boat crossings to Italy.

They said he was part of a group of Somali fighters who had guided their group through the desert to Libya.

Criminal gangs take groups of migrants from several countries through desert zones to the Libyan coast.

Armed men often hold the migrants prisoner there until weather conditions allow a crossing to Italy for which they often pay thousands of dollars.

The perils of the crossings were illustrated again this week when around 330 African migrants died trying to cross from Libya.

The Italian coastguard said yesterday that despite the tragedy hundreds more Africans had left Libya heading for Italy on rubber dinghies.

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