Representational image (iStock)

A Bangladeshi who allegedly heads an international human trafficking gang was arrested Monday (1), police said, after the retaliatory killing of 30 migrants following the murder of a smuggler in Libya.

About 26 Bangladeshis and four Africans were killed in the North African nation by family members of the 30-year-old Libyan smuggler after “clandestine migrants” murdered him for unknown reasons, the country’s UN-recognised government said last week.

Kamal Uddin, 55, was detained in the capital Dhaka by police on Monday, and authorities accused him of being the “mastermind” behind the trafficking syndicate.

“He has admitted he has connection with the international traffickers’ racket involved in the recent incident,” police spokesman Sujoy Kumar Roy told AFP.

Police alleged Uddin’s gang targeted Bangladeshi villagers.

“Kamal Uddin has smuggled over 400 Bangladeshis in the last 10-12 years,” they added in a statement.

Bangladesh has urged Libya’s UN-backed government to probe the killings, punish the perpetrators and compensate the victims.

The incident highlighted the trafficking of youth from the impoverished South Asian nation to Libya, where they usually embark on a sea crossing to Europe.

Tens of thousands of young Bangladeshi men have attempted the perilous Mediterranean crossing in recent years, and the number of traffickers catering to them has mushroomed.

“At least 700 Bangladeshis have been detained by the Libyan coastguard during this pandemic, which gives a hint at the actual number of Bangladeshis attempting these perilous journeys,” the head of a local migration think tank, Tasneem Siddiqui, told AFP.

When AFP visited the rural town of Beanibazar in 2016, a local councillor said thousands of young men paid up to $12,000 to traffickers for safe passage to Italy.

But many were later found to have been sold as slaves in Libya, he said.

The fall and killing of veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a 2011 uprising sparked years of chaos that traffickers have exploited to turn Libya into a major route for illicit migration towards Europe.