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Spain spearheads net paedo dragnet

Expects 500 arrests worldwide

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Spain's interior ministry has announced that it is co-ordinating a 12-nation dragnet against net child pornography and expects around 500 arrests worldwide. Police are making simultaneous searches of homes in Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, France, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Panama, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay after material distributed via a Spanish-language net chat room led authorities to the suspects.

The probe began in January when a Spaniard alerted the authorities to "highly aggressive" photographs of young children available through the chat room, Reuters reports. Police subsequently monitored the site for a fortnight to identify the authors and consumers of the material. They fingered 900 suspects before alerting Eurojust and IbeRed - bodies which co-ordinate judicial action in Europe and Latin America.

Judges from all the countries cited took part in planning meetings before today's raids which have so far resulted in 19 arrests in Spain. Police say they have seized 20,000 items of child pornography, including videos, photographs and MP3 files, as well as video cameras and documents.

This latest operation comes after last month's bust of 19 suspected paedophiles across Spain. In that case, the net closed after a woman complained that her 12-year-old son had been approached in an internet chat room by someone who offered the boy money and presents in return for sex. The police traced the suspect to Murcia, and analysis of siezed material in turn led them to the other alleged paedophiles. ®

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