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International pedophile ring shut down, say police (VIDEO)

Police say it could be the largest online pedophile network in the world.

Pedophile ring 2011 3 17Enlarge
Dutch Joop Scheffer (L) of the Zaanstreek-Waterland police department talks with Australian colleague Grant Edwards on March 16, 2011, before a press conference in The Hague. Europol announced on March 16 that police in several countries had arrested 184 alleged members of an online pedophile ring and rescued 230 children. (Toussaint Kluiters/AFP/Getty Images)

A massive international online pedophile ring involving 70,000 members in 30 countries has been shut down, police said Wednesday.

Police said they rescued 230 children from abuse and arrested 184 suspects, including teachers and police officers, the AP reports.

The operation, which involved a three-year investigation, includes 670 suspects.

The pedophile ring, centered on a legal online forum called boylover.net, was "probably the largest online pedophile network in the world," said Rob Wainwright, director of the European Union police agency Europol, as reported in AP.

Britain's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) led the investigation, called Operation Rescue.

"While these offenders felt anonymous in some way because they were using the internet to communicate, the technology was actually being used against them," Peter Davies, head of Ceop, told the BBC. "Everything they did online, everyone they talked to or anything they shared could and was tracked by following the digital footprint."

As members of the network shared photographs and films of abused children online, investigators infiltrated the network and posed as pedophiles to gather information, it states.

Police said the children involved were ages 7 to 14, AP reports. One suspect engaged in an online conversation in which he said he found boys wearing diapers attractive and convinced one boy to wear a diaper every weekend from age 9 to 13.

"They were the happiest four years of my life," he said.

Suspects have been identified in Britain, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Canada, New Zealand and Thailand.

-- Hanna Ingber Win

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/benelux/110317/international-pedophile-ring-shut-down