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Police seize alleged child sex offenders in worldwide operation

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: A website called boylover.net operated from the Netherlands, Europol says
  • Cracking the security of the computer server is a key part of case
  • Police in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand are involved
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(CNN) -- Police have arrested scores of suspected child sex offenders in a three-year-old worldwide probe, the European Law Enforcement Agency announced Wednesday.

Europol said 670 suspects have been identified, 184 arrests have been made, 230 children have been rescued, and investigations are continuing in a case authorities are calling Operation Rescue.

Police success in "cracking the security features of a key computer server" at the center of a child sex abuse network was an important break in the case, Europol said. As a result, authorities were able to uncover "the identity and activity of the suspected child sex offenders."

"I am proud of the exceptional work of our experts in helping police authorities around the world to record these groundbreaking results," said Rob Wainwright, director of Europol. "The safeguarding of so many vulnerable children is particularly rewarding and demonstrates the commitment of our agency to make Europe a safer place for its citizens. I also pay tribute to the relevant authorities in Europe and elsewhere for their operational work in tracking down the suspected criminals and their victims."

Europol said it began supporting and coordinating the ongoing investigation a year and a half ago.

Countries with law enforcement officers involved in the probe include Australia, Belgium, Canada, Greece, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States, Europol said. Investigations into identified suspects are still under way in other countries that were not listed, it said.

Europol said the suspects were members of boylover.net -- an online forum promoting sexual relationships between adults and boys.

"The website operated from a server based in the Netherlands and, at its height, boasted up to 70 000 members worldwide," Europol said in a news release.

The website -- now taken down -- tried to operate as a "discussion-only" forum in which people operated "below the radar" of police by sharing "their sexual interest in young boys without committing any specific offenses."

"Having made contact on the site, some members would move to more private channels, such as e-mail, to exchange and share illegal images and films of children being abused. Computers seized from those arrested have harvested huge quantities of child abuse images and videos," Europol said.

Britain's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center located the website owner and traced the server to the Netherlands in 2009.

"In January 2010, a copy of the seized site's server was received by Europol, and the Australian and UK police. Working with Zaanstreek-Waterland Police in the Netherlands, Europol rebuilt the forum offline and forensically interrogated the server to produce intelligence analysis that was disseminated globally to law enforcement authorities," Europol said.

 
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