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German police raid 50 homes in child porn investigation

BERLIN (AP) — A thousand police officers in Germany raided the homes of 50 people as part of a nationwide crackdown on the online sharing and distribution of child pornography, Cologne police said Wednesday.

None of the 48 men and two women suspected of involvement was arrested during Tuesday's raids, but investigators seized around 2,000 phones, computers and other devices upon which images were stored, police said.

The suspects are accused of sharing images of child sexual abuse through networks such as social media and messenger services, Michael Esser, director of criminal investigations for the Cologne police, said. None of them are suspected of directly abusing any children, according to the current state of the investigation.

“Behind every picture there is a victim of sexual abuse,” Esser said. “We will never give up the fight against pedophile criminals.” The suspects present a cross section of society, young and old, single and married, Cologne prosecutor Markus Hartmann said.

The raids took places in 12 states, with a focus on Bavaria. They were part of an investigation that began in October 2019 and has so far identified 207 suspects. “What's important is that we are seeing a new kind of crime," Esser said. "The perpetrators are not acting on their own, but are part of bigger networks which are using the structures of online communication.”

Police received a lot of support in their investigation from one specific messenger service operator, Esser said He declined to say which one. Investigators are looking quickly through the seized images to see if they can find evidence indicating that children are still being abused and if so, they will try to find and rescue the victims.

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