A "prolific" people smuggler known as "The General" has been captured in Sudan and extradited to Italy following an international investigation.
Britain's National Crime Agency called Mered Medhanie, 35, the "mastermind" behind a major criminal organization responsible for smuggling thousands of migrants into Europe.
It said the Eritrean national was captured by Sudanese police in Khartoum after the agency tracked him to an address in the city. Officials did not divulge Medhanie's arrest until his extradition to Rome on Tuesday.
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Medhanie was wanted in Italy in relation to a migrant-boat sinking off the island of Lampedusa in 2013 that killed 359 people, according to the British National Crime Agency, which has been assisting the investigation.
It said Italy had intercepted phone calls that showed Medhani was organizing "regular" migrant journeys across the Mediterranean.
"During one recorded conversation Medhanie was heard laughing about the fatal overloading of migrant ships," Britain's National Crime Agency added in a statement announcing the operation.
Medhanie was dubbed "The General" because he reportedly styled himself off late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. He is expected to appear in court in Rome on Wednesday or Thursday.
"Mered is accused of being the advocate and boss of one of the most important criminal groups operating in central Africa and Libya that smuggles people first across the Sahara desert and then the Mediterranean Sea," prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi said in a statement, according to Reuters.
Britain's National Crime Agency praised the "substantial" cooperation between Sudanese, Italian and British authorities and agencies that led to Medhanie's capture.
“Medhanie is a prolific people smuggler and has absolute disregard for human life," it said in a statement. "Medhanie no doubt thought he was beyond the reach of European justice."
Cassandra Vinograd is a Senior Writer and News Editor. Before joining NBC News, she worked as a London-based correspondent for The Associated Press and specialized in politics, foreign affairs and defense.
Vinograd previously worked as an editor for The Wall Street Journal in Brussels and London.
She has reported extensively from Afghanistan and on West Africa and the Middle East.