By Associated Press - Monday, September 10, 2018

PARIS (AP) - Police in Sudan have rescued 94 victims of human trafficking, including 85 minors, from open-air gold mines near Khartoum and the city’s international airport among other places, Interpol said on Monday.

A statement by the international police organization, which coordinated the operation late last month, said 14 people, 12 of them women, have been arrested.

Police seized $20,000 during the operation, and Interpol said it is believed the money included ransom obtained in the abduction of a migrant among those rescued.

Many of the rescued minors had been found working in illegally operated gold mines east of Khartoum where the children, including 10-year-olds, handled mercury and cyanide.

The rescued victims came from a half-dozen countries including Chad, Eritrea, Niger, Congo and South Sudan. Sudanese were also among the victims.

Sudan is among African countries that are both a source of migration to Europe and a transit country and destination for smuggling.

The statement said that holding victims in bondage and using them for labor-intensive activities after being lured or coerced appears to be a method used by traffickers in the region.

Some 200 Sudanese officers took part in Operation Sawiyan, with the France-based police agency training and equipping investigators. Police had access to Interpol databases containing records of millions of lost or stolen documents, the statement said.

It was unclear what would become of the rescued victims, in particular whether any would eventually be returned home. Sudan’s Child Protection Unit was called in for immediate assistance and the Ministry of Social Affairs was to handle longer-term aid, the statement said.

The rescues and arrests were part of Interpol’s Project Flyway, aimed at helping protect vulnerable communities in North Africa and the Sahel region.

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