Lebanon police rescue 75 mainly Syrian 'sex slaves'

Children at an informal settlement for Syrian refugees in Lebanon in January 2016.
Children at an informal settlement for Syrian refugees in Lebanon in January 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIRUT (AFP) - Lebanon's security forces have dismantled the country's largest known sex trafficking ring and freed 75 mainly Syrian women, a security source said on Friday.

They had been raped and beaten, while some showed signs of "mutilation", a statement from the Internal Security Forces (ISF) said.

"This is the largest sex trafficking ring we've uncovered since the outbreak of the Syrian war," a Lebanese security source told AFP.

Police officers in the Mount Lebanon region north of Beirut "identified and arrested a group of people who made up Lebanon's most dangerous human trafficking network", the ISF statement said.

They "rescued 75 women, most of them Syrian nationals who had been subjected to beatings and psychological and physical torture, forced to perform sexual acts and had indecent images of them taken and distributed," it said.

The ISF arrested two men and eight women guarding the apartments where the victims were kept, but two other suspects remain at large, according to the statement.

Security forces also arrested a doctor and a nurse who worked for the traffickers.

"During their interrogation, the doctor admitted to performing nearly 200 abortions" for the captive women, the ISF said in a statement.

The security source also said that "an eight-month-old baby, likely the child of one of the rescued women" was found during the raid.

Even before the Syrian conflict erupted in 2011, Syrian women had been pushed into the illicit sex trade in neighbouring Lebanon.

"However, as with any war, conflict has made Syrian women and children even more vulnerable," the security source said. "They pay the highest price."