You’ve got the wrong man: Identity of arrested people-smuggler called into doubt

Investigators who thought they had captured one of the world’s most wanted people smugglers are checking claims they nabbed the wrong man. They thought they had captured Mered Medhanie, known as The General and the mastermind behind a major criminal organisation responsible for smuggling thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Africa to Europe. But they appear to have arrested a migrant called Medhanie Tesfamariam instead. The 27-year-old refugee, who was also named as Kidane or Berhe, happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when police swooped in the city of Khartoum in Sudan late last month, his family says.

This is a complex multi-partner operation and it is too soon to speculate about these claims.

Britain’s National Crime Agency, which was involved in the arrest

Medhanie, a 35-year-old Eritrean is accused of being partly responsible for the 2013 Lampedusa tragedy in which at least 359 migrants lost their lives when their boat capsized off the Italian coast. An international team led by Britain’s National Crime Agency announced yesterday he had been caught as he was flown to Italy. But doubts were cast on the identity of the arrested man as pictures of him arriving in Rome were published. Fshaye Tasfai, a friend of Medhanie Tesfamariam, said: “It’s the wrong guy. It’s incredible – he’s not a human trafficker. He’s from my family.”

I don’t think he has any bone in his body which can involve such kind of things. He is a loving, friendly and kind person

Hermon Berhe, who said he grew up with the arrested man