LONDON: British crime experts say some 300 suspects have been identified in a wide-ranging inquiry into industrial-scale child sex abuse in the northern city of Rotherham.

The National Crime Agency said on Wednesday that earlier reports saying roughly 1,400 children had been abused in the city between 1997 and 2013 appeared to be accurate. The magnitude of the abuse shocked Britain when it was first reported in August.

Municipal authorities in the city of 250,000 are accused of turning a blind eye to the reports of young girls who said they had been abused at the hands of largely Pakistani gangs.

Officials say the girls, many who lived in government-paid care homes, were not believed or taken seriously when they complained about being raped and trafficked.

Steve Baldwin, the crime agency’s senior investigating officer, said the police inquiry supported earlier claims about the number of children who were targeted. The crime agency also confirmed that two of the suspects had served on the city council.

“The abuse that has taken place in Rotherham is horrific,” he said. “We have gathered a huge amount of information which details some very disturbing events.”

He said investigators would make a high priority of building cases against “suspects who may continue to pose any risk of harm today and those who have caused most harm in the past”.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2015

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