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Interpol sweep nets 25 Anonymous suspects

Global police agency says sweep in Europe and South America was in response to cyberattacks on government Web sites in Colombia and Chile.

Twenty-five suspected members of the online activist group Anonymous have been arrested in sweeps across Europe and South America, the international police agency Interpol said today.

The sweep, dubbed "Operation Unmask," was in response to coordinated cyberattacks against government, political, and corporate Web sites in Colombia and Chile, Interpol said. The suspects, whose ages range from 17 to 40, were arrested in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Spain.

"This operation shows that crime in the virtual world does have real consequences for those involved, and that the Internet cannot be seen as a safe haven for criminal activity, no matter where it originates or where it is targeted," Bernd Rossbach, Interpol's executive director of police services, said in a statement.

Authorities said they seized 250 items of IT equipment and mobile phones, as well as payment cards and cash, during searches executed on 40 homes and businesses in 15 cities.

The hacking collective has raised the ire of law enforcement officials worldwide with its recent activity. This month alone, the group claimed responsibility for taking down the CIA's Web site with a distributed denial-of-service attack, released a recording of a conference call between the FBI and U.K. law enforcement regarding the group, and aided WikiLeaks in the release of confidential e-mails from an influential global security analysis company.