An interior ministry spokesman in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt reported that police carried out raids of more than 500 apartments in Germany alone under the operation, codenamed “Marcy.”

The investigation began with the discovery of a suspect last year in the state capital Magdeburg who had started several Internet swap circles for pornographic photographs and films featuring children.

Police discovered that the 26-year-old suspect's distribution list of more than 26,500 users included people from around the world, according to a report in a local paper. Some 530 of the suspects were German.

Local authorities have confiscated several computers, videotapes and CD-ROMs in the apartment searches. One man alone in the southern state of Bavaria reportedly had 26,000 illicit photographs in his apartment.

The raids follow operations in five countries in May of this year which led to 21 arrests, including seven in Germany.

The operations were hailed at the time as an excellent example of international law enforcement.