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					Israel's arrest a Bedouin man who works for
Sinai kidnappers of Eritrean refugees
Israel's arrest of Bedouin man sheds light on Sinai kidnappings of African refugees

Rahat resident allegedly secured ransom payments for gang that abducted Eritrean and
Sudanese

refugees; Israel Police says 'well-oiled' system of kidnappers working in concert with Hebron
money

changers.

Get Haaretz on iPhone Get Haaretz on Android A Bedouin resident of southern Israel was
charged last

week with serving as an accomplice to a criminal organization that kidnapped Eritrean and
Sudanese

nationals in the Sinai Peninsula and extorted their families for ransom.

The indictment Yusuf al-Qarnawi was presented by Israel's State Prosecutor's Office Be’er Sheva
District

Court on Friday and elucidates the alleged inner workings of the gang.

According to the charges, al-Qarnawi was approached in June 2011 by two alleged kidnappers,
one a

resident of Sinai and the other from the Gaza Strip, who requested his help in picking up
ransom from

family members of people they had kidnapped.

Al-Qarnawi was allegedly told to call the family and friends of the asylum seekers kidnapped in
the Sinai

and receive the ransom payment, according to the indictment, after which he handed the
money over

to the kidnappers.
The indictment states al-Qarnawi accepted five payments monthly between June 2011 and
February

2012, for which he was paid $300 for ransom payments of $20,000 or less, and $450 for ransom

payment of more than $20,000.

The indictment goes on to elaborate the gang’s alleged mode of operation. In June 2011, they
allegedly

kidnapped an Eritrean citizen, held him captive with another 70 prisoners, all blindfolded.
During his

captivity, he was starved, beaten, and forced to call his family and ask that they pay a $25,000
ransom,

under threat of death.

Shortly after, al-Qarnawi sent his brother to pick up a $15,000 ransom from the victim’s family.
A day

later, they allegedly demanded the family hand over an additional $10,000.In another case
presented in the indictment, two Eritrean women were abducted. They were held

chained in captivity in a house with another 40 other kidnapped persons. While in captivity,
they were

starved, beaten with sticks and tortured by electric shock. One the kidnappers raped one of the
woman,

says the indictment.

The indictment says that the kidnappers demanded $40,000 for each of the women,
threatening that

were they not to receive the stated ransom in full they would remove their kidneys and sell
them

instead. To show the families the seriousness of their intent, the kidnappers would call the
victims’

families and let them hear their cries. Al-Qarnawi picked up the ransom for these two victims in
person.
Commander Moti Asor of the Israel Police Southern District (Lachish Region) Counter Terror
Unit, who

headed the investigation, explained how the gang worked:

“The Sudanese and Eritrean citizens travel through the Sinai on their way to Israel. In the Sinai
there are

families that specialize in smuggling. They charge them money to get them across the border,"
he said.

"About a year ago, these families decided to institutionalize the practice – they started hold the
refugees

captive and demand ransoms from them ranging between $39,000 to 40,000."

“The refugees held by them are given an opportunity to call their families and friends in Israel,"
said

Asor. "At a later point the kidnappers threaten the kith and kin and have them listen to them
torture

their loved ones.”

“There is a well-oiled system of kidnappers from Gaza and Sinai, working in concert with money

changers in Hebron," he added. "They reached Al-Qarnawi. He was in transport and knew
traders in

Gaza, that how they found him. They would send him to meetings in Tel Aviv to pick up the
money. After

the money was received they’d free the prisoner. Al-Qarnawi confessed his part in five cases,
but we

believe there are many more. There are family members that are afraid to fil

				
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