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Kenyan man wanted in the US for poaching arrested at airport

July 29, 2020 GMT

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenyan authorities said Wednesday they have arrested a man wanted in the U.S. for allegedly conspiring to sell 10 tons of elephant ivory and more than 400 pounds of rhinoceros horn over a seven-year period.

The Directorate of Criminal Investigation said on its Twitter account that officers had arrested Abubakar Mansur Mohammed Surur, a Kenyan national who had been flagged as a “wanted person” in the United States for ivory-related offenses.

He was on on charter flight from Yemen which landed in Kenya’s second largest city early Tuesday, authorities said.

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The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York has said that Surur was part of a transnational criminal enterprise known as the “Enterprise” based in Uganda and surrounding countries.

Authorities believe Surur and several others conspired to distribute, sell, and smuggle at least approximately sell 10 tons of elephant ivory and 418 pounds of rhinoceros horn between 2012 and 2019.

The haul amassed over the seven-year period is believed to have involved the illegal poaching of more than 35 rhinoceros and more than 100 elephants.

U.S. authorities have said that one co-defendant, a Liberian man, already has been extradited to the United States after being arrested in Uganda last year. A Guinean man remains in custody in Senegal where authorities are considering an extradition request. A fourth defendant, who is also Kenyan, remains a fugitive.

Africa had 1.3 million elephants in the 1970s, but has only 500,000 today due to poaching and trophy hunting. Less than 30,000 rhinos are estimated to remain in the wild.

The price of rhino horn skyrocketed as demand grew in Asian countries, mainly China and Vietnam, where the horns are ground up and used in traditional Chinese medicine as a supposed cure for a variety of ailments. Syndicates from Vietnam, China, South Korea and Thailand have been identified as being involved in the trafficking.