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Tuesday, 2 July, 2002, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
Police smash net paedophile ring
Material seized by police
The images seized were the worst police had seen
Fifty people have been arrested in a co-ordinated international operation against internet paedophiles.

Tuesday's raids were synchronised by police in the UK and saw a total of 50 arrests, including 31 in Germany and six in Britain.

Others were held in Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Italy and Spain but the inquiry - dubbed Operation Twins - also stretched across the US, Canada, Denmark, Romania and Switzerland.

It was overseen by the UK's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, which has worked for a year to uncover the ring, known as the Shadowz Brotherhood and thought to have 100 members.


In terms of the kinds of material they are posting and allowing access to it's the worst group I have encountered.

Det Chief Supt
Len Hynds
Hundreds of officers in seven countries were involved and dozens of computers and thousands of disks were confiscated.

The Hi-Tech Crime Unit were supported by officers from Europol in The Hague.

A Europol spokesman said of the raids: "In all cases the occupants were implicated in crimes relating to child abuse and pornography.

"A substantial quantity of equipment was seized including computers and laptops containing images of child abuse, videos and CDs."

Detectives said the images were among the most horrific they had ever seen.

Some showed babies and young children being abused.

Suicide

The six men arrested in the UK included one of the alleged masterminds of the Brotherhood, a 25-year-old man from Staines, west London.

The others were a 58-year-old man who runs an electronic security company in Northamptonshire, a 62-year-old who works for an NHS trust in Berkshire, a 23-year-old cleaner from Wiltshire, a 26-year-old electrician from south east London and a 27-year-old manager in the jewellery trade from Hounslow, west London.

Before the latest arrests 16 people had already been held across the world of whom one - a US Air Force officer - committed suicide.

Police say they believe many of those involved in the ring had sexually abused children themselves and then posted the images on the internet.


This group were using highly sophisticated technical means to continue their criminal activities and to avoid detection

Det Chief Supt
Len Hynds

Their activities centred around an encrypted website which also provided advice on how to groom children for abuse in internet chatrooms and how to evade detection.

BBC News Online's technology correspondent Mark Ward said: "These sites operate in a similar way to music piracy sites. You have to upload something on to it before they will let you have access to their archives."

He said the sites were often accessible only by codewords and added: "You would have to move in certain circles before you could get the codeword."

He said internet paedophiles often used Internet Relay Chat (IRC) - a way of communicating over the web which is so fast it is almost impossible to monitor.

It is thought undercover police officers may have posed as paedophiles in order to infiltrate the Shadowz Brotherhood.

'Highly sophisticated'

Detectives said the brotherhood operated a cellular structure similar to terror networks, which meant that if one person was arrested they could only betray a small number of people.

The Shadowz Brotherhood is understood to have operated in English, French, German, Spanish and Dutch.

Head of the UK National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, Detective Chief Superintendent Len Hynds said: "These people were involved in abusing children and discussing it on-line.

"In terms of the kinds of material they are posting and allowing access to it's the worst group I have encountered."

He said they had used a level of sophistication not seen by law enforcers before.

"It was a hierarchical structure with systems administrators who monitored news groups and bulletin boards and provided security advice to members.

"It's clear they had a reasonable awareness of our tactics and we will be exploring every avenue to determine how they accessed that information."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Andy Tighe
"The group showed a level of technical sophisticaion never encountered before"
See also:

02 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
05 Apr 02 | Science/Nature
19 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
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