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Austrian police bust international child abuse ring

2,360 suspects

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Austrian investigators have uncovered a child porn network involving an estimated 2,360 suspects in 77 countries.

Clips posted by a Russian firm, which used servers in Austria, illustrated "the worst kind of child sexual abuse", according to interior minister Guenther Platter. Videos hosted by the site included images of teenage girls being raped that featured the screams of victims.

In Austria, 23 suspects have been questioned of whom 14 have admitted downloading illegal material. Suspects range from 17 to 69 years old.

Police in Austria plan to share the data with their counterparts in Germany and the US. The FBI are reportedly investigating 600 suspects, while German police have been furnished with the details of 400 alleged perverts. Around 100 of the suspects are resident in France and 72 in the UK.

The international investigation, which has many parallels to Operation Ore that followed the closure of child porn portal Landslide Productions, began last July after an Austrian ISP gave police a tip-off that illicit files had been uploaded onto its server. The offending material was uploaded from London and might have been reached via a download link on a Russian website, which acted as a portal for child abuse images stored on hacked servers. This site was closed down but not before police recorded 8,000 hits on child abuse images on the site from more than 2,360 computer addresses in 77 countries.

Harald Gremel, the Austrian detective who led the investigation, said the videos were produced in eastern Europe and featured children of up to 14 years of age. "Girls could be seen being raped, and you could also hear screams," Gremel said, the BBC reports. Under Austria law, possession of child abuse images featuring kids under 14 is two years imprisonment, while distribution is punishable by a maximum of 10 years in jail. ®

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