Category: World / January 3, 2013 4:53 PM EST
U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) officials announced on Thursday (January 09) they had identified and rescued 123 victims of sexual exploitation as part of Operation Sunflower.
More than 240 adults were also arrested in the crackdown that targeted people producing or selling images of child pornography.
"As satisfying as the arrests in Operation Sunflower have been today is obviously a day of mixed emotions because this operation is ultimately a tale of the perverse, pervasive and violent exploitation of children, very young children, to satisfy the dark pleasures of a group of twisted adults. The grim reality is that online child exploitation is a very real part of our modern lives and it is going on throughout the world right now on a grand scale," said ICE director John Morton said at a news conference.
Of the 123 children rescued, 110 victims were identified in 19 U.S. states.
Forty-four were directly rescued from their abusers and 79 were identified as victims of sexual exploitation outside of their home or adults who were victimized as children, the agency said. Seventy were female and 53 were male
The operation spanned 47 U.S. states and six countries.