The Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) on Saturday arrested two members of a human trafficking racket based in Iraq, which have been allegedly trafficking victims from Bangladesh to the Middle Eastern countries.
The traffickers have been forcing women into prostitution and keeping men as hostages for ransom, said the Rab.
Since 2013, the racket has so far trafficked over 250 men and women from Bangladesh to the Middle Eastern countries, mostly to Iraq, said the Rab officials.
The arrested are Liton Mia, leader of the racket, and Azad Rahman, a travel agency owner.
Liton was in Iraq for years, while Azad has been trafficking people abroad through his agency since 1993.
They lured people with promises of medical jobs at hospitals in Iraq, said Rab's Legal and Media Wing Director Commander Khandaker Al-Moin in a briefing.
The ring trafficked over 200 youths to Iraq. Many of them were kept hostage in safe houses in Baghdad. They also trafficked around 30-35 females and sold them for prostitution there, said the officer.
The trafficking racket has 10-15 members in Bangladesh and five-seven members in Iraq.
The victims were taken to Dubai of United Arab Emirates on tourist visas and then shifted to Iraq using the same type of visas.
The racket has been taking Tk3-4 lakh from each victim to take them to Iraq.
"Liton has been trapping women victims by marriages and romantic affairs. He had married six women. Five of them were trafficked into Iraq. They were kept as hostages or sold," said Moin.
Rab busted the network and arrested the two traffickers after being informed by two victims who escaped from Liton and returned to Bangladesh after getting trafficked into Iraq.
Moin said there were still some victims kept hostages in Iraq by the trafficking ring.
Liton was arrested in Iraq twice for his involvement in trafficking. He returned to Bangladesh after getting released, the Rab officials said.
There are also some cases when the trafficking gang tried to send people into European countries, said Moin.
The trafficked victims are mainly from Dhaka, Chattogram, Pirojpur, Jhalakathi, and Khulna.
Liton was a medical assistant in Bangladesh. He went to Iraq in 2010 and started working as a medical assistant.
Azad approached women medical assistants in different hospitals and clinics with job offers at hospitals in Iraq. He also offered other youths jobs at beauty parlours, markets, and shopping malls, said Moin.
Liton used to call the targeted persons and introduced himself as a senior doctor working in Iraq. He convinced the victims to travel to Iraq by promising to give them jobs there.
A victim who managed to flee Iraq in 2019 told reporters in the Rab office that she had been working as a medical assistant in a hospital in Dhaka.
Azad at first offered her job in Iraq as a medical assistant and a few days later Liton called her introducing himself as a senior doctor, said the victim.
She sent her curriculum vitae and photo to Liton who later developed a romantic relationship with her.
She paid Tk3.5 lakh to go to Iraq.
Liton married the girl in Bangladesh and took her to his house in Baghdad.
She found that three more girls were kept in his house to be sold into prostitution.
She also saw around 50-60 men and around 10 young girls kept in a small safe house.
The girl said she fled from Liton's house and worked in a hospital in Baghdad for two months to earn the money needed to return to Bangladesh.
The Rab officials said there are some cases filed against travel agency owner Azad and he was earlier arrested over a trafficking charge.