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Child porn

mll/ncy, AFP/dpaApril 17, 2009

Police in the southern German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg have said they've broken up a global child pornography ring involving some 9,000 suspected paedophiles in 92 countries.

The digitally distorted picture of a child on a computer screen
Suspected pedophiles were identified around the worldImage: AP Graphics

Pornographic images of children were transmitted from more than 1,000 connections in Germany to 8,000 IP addresses in countries including the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Austria and Switzerland.

Police said the footage included "images of the most serious sexual abuse, even of toddlers."

On Thursday they seized more than 500 computers throughout Germany, as well as more than 43,000 data storage devices and nearly 800 hard drives.

Police investigations were based on internet connection records which service providers are required by law to keep. The law has been attacked by critics as an invasion of privacy. However, the police said that 377 suspects could not be identified since their connection records were deleted before the law came into effect.

Most suspects have been released while the evidence is examined, but police in the northern German state of Lower Saxony said that one man in his 40s has been arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing two children, aged seven and 11, in his family.

Police said they had forwarded their findings to the authorities in 91 countries, and their investigations had already led to arrests abroad.

The move comes as German police prepare to sign agreements with internet service providers on Friday to make it harder to access websites posting child pornography.