Police in South Africa arrested six men suspected of being part of an international child pornography ring, authorities said on Wednesday.
An elementary school principal and award-winning author, two teachers, a lawyer, a dermatologist and a businessman were taken into custody after raids were carried out on 15 properties.
"The initial charge was possession, but we suspect that they're involved in manufacturing, import and export as well as mass-distribution," police spokesman Solomon Makgale told Agence France-Presse.
"The indications are there. They had cameras. They had these external hard drives," he added.
Another 26 people are under investigation, and more arrests are pending in the bust, which ran simultaneously with other arrests overseas.
The ring appears to have connections in the US, Canada, the UK and other European countries.
Police confiscated 672 DVDs, 22 memory sticks, eight laptops, 39 external hard drives and 25 books during their investigation.
Some of the images found showed children "suffering extreme forms of violence" and officers involved in the operation described what they found as "sickening."
South African police are now working with other international law enforcement agencies to find out if any of the children being abused within the child pornography ring are from their countries.
Overseas officers are also investigating the possibility that some of the children have been killed.
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