Police in Bogota have rescued dozens of young women held against their will and sexually exploited. One of the victims was reportedly found hidden behind a wall, with her hands and feet shackled.
The Spanish-language EFE news agency reported that at least 79 underage girls were rescued, while the AFP newswire said that "some 200 young women and girls" had been liberated in the police operation.
Bogota Mayor Enrique Penalosa told a press conference that the women were held against their will in the heart of the city, not far from the center of government.
"We will not tolerate the exploitation of children anywhere in Bogota, and certainly not just six blocks from the presidential palace and city hall," Penalosa said.
Penalosa added that the police operation was not directed against people living on the street but intended to "re-establish the rights of children."
Massive police involvement
More than 2,500 police and military officers carried out a raid in a notorious section of Bogota known as El Bronx, which is plagued by drug trafficking and prostitution, and is considered to be one of the most dangerous parts of Colombia.
Several suspects, said to be members of criminal gangs, were taken into custody, while drugs and firearms were also found during the raid.
President Juan Manuel Santos pledged the full cooperation of his administration and congratulated those involved in the raid, saying that the operation was a "good example of teamwork between the national and city governments."
The operation is expected to continue for several more days.
ss/gsw (EFE, AFP)