image captionPolice in Sydney arrest a man suspected of possessing child abuse material
Australian police have arrested 44 men across the nation on suspicion of possessing and producing child abuse material.
Sixteen children had been “removed from harm” in the process, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) said.
The arrests followed a year-long investigation into images and videos that were shared online.
Arrests of the suspects – all aged between 19 and 57 – were made in every Australian state.
Police laid a total of 350 charges, all related to possessing or producing child exploitation material.
The men had allegedly used a cloud storage platform to share the abuse. The AFP described some evidence as among “the most abhorrent produced”.
Commissioner Reece Kershaw said identifying and rescuing victims was a “race against time” in such cases.
“Pixel by pixel, our investigators painstakingly look for clues and never give up,” he said.
Hundreds of police and other specialists worked on the operation across Australia’s states and territories.
The arrests numbered 11 in Victoria, 11 in Queensland, nine in South Australia, eight in New South Wales, seven in Western Australia, five in Tasmania and one in the Australian Capital Territory.
The suspects worked in industries including construction, transport, law enforcement and hospitality.
“Children are not commodities and the AFP and its partner agencies work around-the-clock to identify and prosecute offenders,” Mr Kershaw said.
The AFP said it had rescued 134 children from child exploitation this year, including 67 who were not in Australia.