200 captive women, girls freed from Colombia sex ring

BOGOTA (AFP) - Police in Bogota on Saturday rescued some 200 young women and girls who were being held against their will and sexually exploited, city officials said.

Mayor Enrique Penalosa told a press conference that the youngsters were held in the heart of the city, not far from the centre of government.

"We will not tolerate the exploitation of children anywhere in Bogota, and certainly not just six blocks from the Casa Narino (the presidential palace) and city hall," Penalosa said.

Police, assisted by military units, carried out a raid in a notorious section of Bogota known as The Bronx, plagued by rampant drug trafficking and prostitution rings.

One of the victims was found hidden behind a wall, hands and feet shackled.

The youngest victims were taken into custody by child welfare authorities.

Several suspects, said to be members of criminal gangs, were taken into custody.

President Juan Manuel Santos pledged the full cooperation of his administration as the operation continues.