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UK arrests suspected migrant boat ‘kingpin’

The UK’s National Crime Agency announced Wednesday it had arrested the suspected leader of an international criminal operation supplying small boats to people smugglers taking migrants across the Channel.

The numbers of migrants crossing the busy shipping lane from northern France is at record levels, prompting a UK crackdown, including controversial proposals to send those arriving to Rwanda.

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The NCA said it had arrested “alleged small boats kingpin” Hewa Rahimpur, originally from Iran, at his workplace in east London, following a joint operation by UK and Belgian law enforcement agencies.

It said Rahimpur, 29, was wanted in Belgium on suspicion of being the leading figure in a network that prosecutors there say is involved in “supplying significant numbers of small boats to people smugglers.”

It tweeted footage of agents snapping handcuffs on the man as he sat in a black Mercedes car.

“Rahimpur stands accused of being a major player in what we would say is one of the most significant criminal networks involved in supplying boats to people smugglers,” NCA deputy director of investigations Jacque Beer said in a statement.

“Many of the criminal gangs involved in these crossings are based outside of the UK, but where we do find they have a UK footprint we will act swiftly to disrupt and dismantle them.”

Rahimpur is accused of sourcing boats in Turkey and getting them delivered to Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

He then allegedly directed members of his organization to take them to the Channel coast in northern France for use by migrants.

He will appear in court in London Thursday for the start of extradition proceedings.

His arrest followed close co-operation between the NCA, the Europol Migrant Smuggling Centre and its counterparts in Belgium, said the UK agency.

In West Flanders, Belgium, prosecutor Frank Demeester said: “The Belgian police and judiciary invest a lot of capacity in the fight against human smuggling, and we will continue to do so in co-operation with our partners in the neighboring countries.”

The NCA has repeatedly appealed to the UK maritime industry to look out for purchases of boats and equipment by organized criminal gangs.

“One of the ways we are seeking to disrupt these people smuggling networks is through targeting their supply of boats,” said Andrea Wilson, the NCA’s deputy director of organized immigration crime.

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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