Spanish police said Thursday they had arrested 56 men suspected of sharing photos online of severe abuse on young children, some of them babies, in a nationwide crackdown on child pornography.
The suspects, the majority Spanish aged between 40 and 60, are accused of "distributing over the internet images of extreme cruelty involving very young minors," police said in a statement, adding that most of the children were younger than 10.
"In many cases, there are even babies subjected to serious abuse, including torture," Luis Garcia Pascual, in charge of the investigation, told reporters at a press briefing.
Over 150 police officers and 46 investigating magistrates took part in the operation carried out across Spain.
Police said they seized over 170 computer hard drives, as well as 614 CDs and DVDs, which contained pornographic images.
Garcia Pascual said there were "aggravating factors" in almost all the arrests made, such as the age of the victims, the huge amount of files found or the degrading nature of acts committed against the children.
The authorities are examining the material to see if any of the men who were detained sexually abused minors themselves.
Police said several of the suspects, none of whom were identified, had been arrested in the past for exchanging pornographic images involving minors over the internet.
They risk up to nine years in jail.
Close to 750 people have been arrested this year over alleged cyber crime, including nearly 400 for offences involving sexual abuse on minors, Ignacio Cosido, director general of Spain's police, told reporters at the briefing.
In August police arrested seven people, mainly French and Moroccan nationals, who were suspected of running a ring that produced pornography involving children.
The authorities suspect the ring exploited at least 80 minors during the past 15 years and distributed over a million pictures and videos of pornography and over a thousand DVDs.