Germany is underway with the investigation of 30,000 people said to be part of a wide paedophile network in the western Bergisch Gladbach region.
The Ministry of Justice announced on Tuesday that the ZAC NRW, the cybercrime division of the North Rhine-Westphalia is currently “investigating 30,000 unknown suspects” linked to the case, according to a report by Al Jazeera.
“We want to drag perpetrators and supporters of child abuse out of the anonymity of the internet,” the Justice Ministry said in a Twitter post.
Those being probed are suspected of sharing children- and youth-related pornographic content “including fictitious or real acts of abuse.”
Content is said to be shared in anonymous online discussions and groups.
“I did not expect, not even remotely, the extent of child abuse on the internet,” North Rhine-Westphalia’s Justice Minister Peter Beisenbach was quoted as saying.
He said that the investigation team uncovered “deeply disturbing” content.
“We must recognise that child abuse on the internet is more widespread than we had previously thought.”
Investigations began in October last year, leading to the arrest of a suspected perpetrator Bergisch Gladbach near Cologne.
At present, authorities have identified and captured nearly 70 suspects throughout Germany.
In May this year, a 27-year-old soldier, the first-ever offender, was ordered to serve 10 years in prison in connection to the crime. He was also placed in a psychiatric hospital for an indefinite period.
Germany has reported several serious cases of child sex abuse during the past 18 months.
In early June, 11 people were arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing children and filming their actions.
The videos and photos were seized from the cellar of a 27-year-old man from the western city of Muenster, also in North Rhine-Westphalia state.
Investigators said they had identified at least three victims, with ages five, 10 and 12.
Meanwhile, in an earlier scandal in Luegde, from Muenster, several men abused children several hundred times at a campsite over a period of several years.
PHOTO COURTESY: PIXABAY/Annie Spratt