(Slay News) – 70 missing children have been rescued during a series of raids as part of a child trafficking operation by federal, state, and local authorities.
The children, most of whom were aged between 10 and 17, were rescued as part of “Operation Lost Souls.”
According to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) press release, the kids were recovered during raids throughout Texas, as well as the state of Colorado and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
The successful operation ran from the end of April through to the middle of May.
The children were mostly victims of sex trafficking and had suffered physical and sexual abuse.
According to ICE, the agencies involved provided counseling to the children and their families.
“Operation Lost Souls exemplifies Homeland Security Investigations’ commitment to protecting the public from crimes of victimization,” HSI El Paso Deputy Special Agent Taekuk Cho said in the press release.
“In this case, we are looking out for our children — our community’s most precious resource.
“HSI is committed to continuing 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.”
“At the Department of Public Safety, teamwork is one of our core values,” Texas DPS Major Matthew Mull added.
“We are grateful for all of our law enforcement partners who participated in this operation and who work around the clock every day to protect our communities, including our youth.”
The announcement of “Operation Lost Souls” comes days after authorities arrested eight individuals in connection with a 15-year-old girl who was allegedly trafficked from a Dallas Mavericks game on April 8.
The girl allegedly separated from her father to use the restroom at the game and was later seen leaving the American Airlines Center with an unknown man.
A few days later, the Texas Counter-Trafficking Initiative found the girl’s nude photos displayed on a website associated with prostitution.
Police in Oklahoma City were able to recover the victim on April 18 — 11 days after her disappearance.
“We are thankful for the work of the Oklahoma City Police Department and the recovery of our daughter,” the girl’s mother said in a May 5 statement.
“My heart breaks for the unimaginable things my daughter had to endure for the 11 days she was taken, and I am so glad she is safe as we work toward her recovery.”
Zeke Fortenberry, an attorney representing the family, questioned how the male suspect who allegedly lured the girl from the arena was able to obtain a fraudulent ticket.
“The systems and organizations involved in this case continually failed the victim,” Fortenberry said.
“She should never have had contact with the man at the Mavericks game.
“This victim’s life will forever be changed.”