The Associated Press
LONDON — British police, with aid from U.S. investigators, have shattered a global Internet pedophile ring, rescuing 31 children and rounding up more than 700 suspects worldwide, authorities said Monday.
Some 200 suspects are based in Britain, said the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center. Authorities would not break down where other suspects came from.
The ring was traced to an Internet chat room called "Kids the Light of Our Lives" that featured images of children being subjected to horrific sexual abuse — including streaming live videos.
Police rescued 31 children, some of them only a few months old. More than 15 of the children were in the United Kingdom, the child protection center said, refusing to elaborate. Authorities would not say where the other children were from.
Officials did say the United States, Canada and Australia were Britain's main partners in the investigation, which involved agencies from 35 countries and lasted more than 10 months.
A call to a U.S. contact provided for the investigation, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was not immediately returned.
Authorities said they used surveillance tactics normally used against terrorism suspects and drug traffickers to infiltrate the pedophile ring at its highest level.
The host of the chat room, Timothy David Martyn Cox, 27, of Buxhall, who used the online identity "Son of God," admitted to nine counts of possessing and distributing indecent images, authorities said. Cox was given an indeterminate jail sentence Monday at a court in eastern England. That means he will remain in prison until authorities determine he is no longer a threat to children.
"Today's verdict serves as a powerful warning to those using the Internet to facilitate the sexual exploitation of children," said Jim Gamble, the child protection center's chief executive.
Cox was identified after intelligence linking the chat room to Britain was passed on to the center by Canadian authorities in August 2006.
After his arrest on Sept. 28, 2006, British, Canadian and Australian authorities were able to infiltrate the chat room and collect evidence on the other members. Officers posed as contributors and even pretended to be Cox, running the chat room for 10 days.
At no point did officers distribute illegal images.
Forensic teams examining Cox's computer found 75,960 indecent and explicit images in addition to evidence that he had supplied 11,491 images to other site users.
A man described as Cox's lieutenant, Gordon Mackintosh, tried to resurrect the chat room in January. Authorities in Britain, Canada, Australia and the U.S. again infiltrated the operation.
Upon his arrest in January, they assumed Mackintosh's identity online and ran the chat room for three days while collecting information on offenders who traded images.
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Mackintosh, 33, has pleaded guilty to 27 charges of making, possessing and distributing indecent images and videos. He is awaiting sentencing.