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70 missing children, human trafficking victims found in Texas operation

70 missing children, human trafficking victims found in Texas operation
Homeland Security Investigations announced it has found 70 missing children, including sex trafficking victims, in Texas operation. Photo by U.S. Homeland Security/EPA-EFE

May 31 (UPI) -- A U.S. Homeland Security investigation, called Operation Lost Souls, has recovered 70 missing children in western Texas.

The children, ranging in ages from 10 to 17, included victims of sex trafficking and were found over a three-week investigation that started in late April, according to Homeland Security Investigations.

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Most of the children were recovered from west Texas, but others were found in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, as well as Colorado and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

A press conference to discuss Operation Lost Souls was held May 25 on National Missing Children's Day.

Many of the children had been runaways, according to HSI, which is providing victim services and counseling.

"Operation Lost Souls exemplifies Homeland Security Investigations' commitment to protecting the public from crimes of victimization," El Paso Deputy Special Agent in Charge Taekuk Cho said in a statement.

"HSI is committed to continue working with our law enforcement partners to locate, recover and help missing children heal, while ensuring that perpetrators are held responsible for these heinous crimes and brought to justice," Cho said.

No arrests have been announced, but authorities said HSI is investigating "additional information and leads."

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Human trafficking is a crime of exploitation in which suspects profit at the expense of their victims by making them perform labor or commercial sex. The U.S. State Department estimates there are some 25 million victims of human trafficking worldwide at any given time.

Anyone with information about human trafficking is urged to contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.

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