Swedes blackmailed Eritreans, attempted murder: prosecutor

Three Swedes who sought to profit from the kidnapping of Eritreans in Egypt are suspected of attempted murder and of blackmailing exiled Eritreans in Sweden, the prosecutor in the case said Friday.

"We suspect that exiled Eritreans were kidnapped and then people in Sweden were asked to pay" a ransom for their release, prosecutor Krister Petersson told AFP.

A court in the Stockholm suburb of Solna had remanded the three Swedes in custody on Tuesday.

The unclassified section of the court's minutes identified the three as Rasmi Almasri, 21, Teodora Yemen, 53, and Hussin Mohamed, 18.

Almasri and Mohamed are suspected of blackmail.

According to news agency TT, which did not cite its sources, exiled Eritreans in Sweden had allegedly been blackmailed for several months.

The Swedes reportedly relayed the demands of the kidnappers in Egypt to the Eritreans' relatives in Sweden. The kidnappers threatened to kill the hostages unless they received hundreds of thousands of kronor (tens of thousands of euros/dollars).

Yemen and Mohamed are meanwhile suspected of attempted murder.

The prosecutor provided no details about the murder plot or who was targeted.

Petersson stressed that the attempted murder and blackmail were two separate parts of the same case.

The custody hearing minutes revealed only that the attempted murder took place in a Stockholm suburb on February 15, when the three were arrested.

Mohamed, the only one who is suspected of both crimes, is also the only one to have confessed to the crimes.

An indictment is expected by March 5 at the latest.

According to the United Nations, Eritreans fleeing their authoritarian homeland are easy targets for human traffickers in the Sudanese desert, who abduct, exploit or kill them.

The United Nations, which runs a refugee camp on the Sudan-Egypt border, estimates that 80 percent of new arrivals leave the camp within two months for Khartoum, Egypt, Israel or further afield in search of better economic opportunities.