An investigation into alleged child pornography possession in 2021, which resulted in the shooting deaths of two FBI agents at that time, has led to the busting of a major international pedophile ring based primarily in Australia and the United States.
Dozens of men have now been arrested by the FBI and the Australian Federal Police, and at least 13 children have been rescued from further harm, according to Fox News.
In Australia, 19 men have been arrested thus far on a combined 138 criminal charges, and at least two of those men have already been convicted and sentenced to prison.
In February 2021, an investigation into suspected child pornography possession led the FBI to execute a search warrant on the home of a suspect named David Lee Huber, 55, who opened fire with a rifle through his front door at federal law enforcement agents rather than be taken into custody.
The shots fired by Huber fatally struck FBI Special Agents Daniel Alfin and Laura Schwartzenberger and wounded three other agents. The suspect then took his own life with the same firearm.
In the wake of that tragic incident, it was discovered that Huber was connected to a broader international criminal pedophilia group, which prompted further investigation by Australian authorities.
Now more than two years after that fatal shooting of the two FBI agents, CNN reported that at least 98 people have been arrested in connection with the joint investigation into the alleged international child sex abuse ring, which, as noted, also resulted in the rescue of at least 13 child victims.
That includes "79 arrests, 65 indictments, and 43 convictions in the U.S.," along with 19 arrests and two convictions in Australia.
It is likely that additional arrests and charges will be made, including in other countries aside from the U.S. and Australia, as investigators have reportedly developed more than 200 international leads in "partner" nations, and more than 300 investigations have been opened in connection to the joint operation.
Known as "Operation Bakis," NBC News reported that the joint investigation uncovered a "peer-to-peer network allegedly sharing child abuse material on the dark web," and involved suspected members who typically had advanced technical skills and "used software to anonymously share files, chat on message boards and access websites within the network."
AFP Commander Helen Schnieder said in a Tuesday statement, "Viewing, distributing, or producing child abuse material is a horrific crime, and the lengths that these alleged offenders went to in order to avoid detection makes them especially dangerous -- the longer they avoid detection the longer they can perpetuate the cycle of abuse."
"The success of Operation Bakis demonstrates the importance of partnerships for law enforcement, at a national level here in Australia, but also at an international level," she continued. Per CNN, Schneider further revealed that some of the offenders were "committing offenses for over 10 years" and that "some of the children were known to the men who were arrested."
NBC News further reported that FBI Legal Attache Nitiana Mann, who is based in Australia, said in a statement of her own, "We are proud of our longstanding relationship with the Australian Federal Police resulting in 19 Australian men facing criminal prosecution as a result of our collaborative investigation."
"The complexity and anonymity of these platforms means that no agency or country can fight these threats alone," she added. "As we continue to build bridges through collaboration and teamwork, we can ensure the good guys win and the bad guys lose."