Hunting the Jackals

At the heart of the Ghost Boat mystery are the people smugglers: the traffickers who are helping thousands upon thousands of people make the treacherous journey from North Africa to Italy.

In December 2014, an Italian police investigation known as Operation Tokhla—it means “jackal” in the Eritrean language, Tigrinya — resulted in the arrest of several men. They’re accused of setting up at least 23 separate trafficking operations last year, including the Ghost Boat. The men are due to stand trial in December on charges of conspiracy and aiding illegal immigration, but there is no conclusive evidence on the fate of the Ghost Boat that allows Italian prosecutors to bring further charges.

If the boat did sink, and there was conclusive proof, then the traffickers involved — whoever they are — could be brought to justice.

What we need

Knowing as much about the activities of smugglers and human traffickers is an important part of understanding what happened to the Ghost Boat’s occupants. This includes not just the smugglers accused in Operation Tokhla, but other information on similar trafficking routes, and other known operations.

What we have

We know the names and ages of the men accused in Operation Tokhla.

Measho Tesfamariam, 29
Abdullatif Mohamed, 26
Mahmud Seid Mahamud Kar, 28
Monza Kibrom Khasay, 24
Omar Ebrahim
Kibrom Khasay
Filipos Abraha, 19
Mahammed Ali Abdallah, 24
Omer Ibrahim, 19
Ephraim Goitom, 18

We have copies of the Italian court filings (warrant, indictment), and are in the process of gathering more legal documents.

How you can help

We know that many jackals have social media accounts — particularly Facebook and Whatsapp, which are very popular in north and east Africa, but maybe other services too. We know they advertise their services online.

Here are some guides on how to search, cross-reference and verify information online, courtesy of First Draft.

How to share information with us

If you find anything that might be useful — information about Operation Tokhla, human traffickers, the court documents, or something else — then respond to this post.


Please be careful: Jackals are obviously engaged in illegal activity, and accusing somebody of people trafficking is obviously a serious claim. In addition, because people’s names are transliterated from Tigrinya, spellings may vary as they get translated into Arabic or Roman alphabets.