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Afghans, Pakistanis migrants held in raid: Malaysian police

Malaysian authorities arrested 36 Afghans and six Pakistanis after detaining two boats trying to smuggle them to Australia via Indonesia, a top marine police official said Monday.

world Updated: Jun 29, 2009 10:46 IST

Malaysian authorities arrested 36 Afghans and six Pakistanis after detaining two boats trying to smuggle them to Australia via Indonesia, a top marine police official said Monday.

Marzuki Ismail, central Selangor state’s marine police chief, told AFP that authorities Saturday also arrested 14 Indonesians, including three boat operators, involved in smuggling migrants.

“We first detained a small wooden boat around midnight near Port Klang (west of the capital Kuala Lumpur) with 15 Afghans and six Pakistanis in it.

“Upon investigation we secured information that there was a mother ship that was waiting nearby,” Marzuki said.

“The next morning (Sunday), we successfully tracked down the mother ship and arrested 21 Afghans,” he added.

Marzuki said that with the latest arrests, a total of 93 migrants had been nabbed since January for attempting to sail to Australia via neighbouring Indonesia by crossing the treacherous Malacca Strait.

Just two weeks ago, Malaysian police detained a boat that was also trying to smuggle 17 Iraqis to Australia via Indonesia. Seven Indonesians were arrested in that raid.

Marzuki said the 42 arrested Afghans and Pakistanis had paid 1,300 dollars each to get to Indonesia, adding that a criminal syndicate operated by Malaysians and Indonesians could be behind the incident.

The Afghans and Pakistanis will be charged with trying to leave the country illegally, he said.

Human trafficking and drug smuggling have replaced piracy as the main crime threat off Malaysia’s long coastline, and Prime Minister Najib Razak admitted that his country was being used as a transit point for illegal immigrants.

In an annual report released on June 16 the United States re-entered Malaysia on a human-trafficking blacklist, saying it had failed to comply with minimum standards to eliminate trafficking.