ANKARA (AA) – Police forces in Mali have rescued some 64 victims of human trafficking and people smuggling in an operation in coordination with Interpol, the international police organization announced on Friday.
Most of the rescued victims in the West African nation were women and girls targeted for sexual exploitation and forced labor in the mining sector and forced begging, Interpol added in a statement.
“Police also conducted raids at known trafficking and smuggling hotspots in the country,” the statement said.
The victims were from Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Nigeria and were working in bars, homes and mining sites, said Interpol.
In the operation -- called Horonya, meaning “freedom” -- four suspected traffickers were detained, while investigations are ongoing to identify other suspects.
“The operation highlighted a regional connection between organized crime networks: … initial reports show that they [the victims] had been exploited in different countries before their arrival in Bamako,” Interpol said.
“Mali serves as major transit country for human traffickers who target the most vulnerable members of society,” Jurgen Stock, Interpol’s secretary general, was quoted as saying.
A UN survey this January found that human trafficking cases have reached a record high in recent years.