International police agency Interpol launched an unusual appeal Monday to the global public to report sightings of 26 leading fugitives — whether on the street or on a Facebook page.
Interpol has been leading an international operation since May aimed at tracking down 450 particularly dangerous fugitives, and has arrested 39 people as a result, including former Colombian model Angie Sanclemente Valencia, wanted by Argentina for drug trafficking.
However, Interpol has failed to find a trace of 26 of the suspects, wanted for murder, human trafficking or child sex abuse. So on Monday, Interpol launched an appeal to the public to report any sign of the 26, releasing their photos and biographical information on its website.
It's the first time Interpol has sought the public's help to find so many suspects. The global crime-fighting body, which links police forces from 186 countries, normally works behind the scenes, but has had success with public appeals to find a few individual suspected pedophiles in the past.
Interpol is hoping that social networking sites prove a fruitful tool for the 26 fugitives on its new public list.
Many of the fugitives have been missing for years, "and when they first went missing there wasn't much on the Internet," Martin Cox, coordinator of the appeal, told The Associated Press.
Cox cited one suspected American pedophile known to be involved in fantasy gaming, and said Interpol hopes to track him down via other gamers. Many gamers, however, hide their real identities and fellow gamers may not be eager to turn in a suspect.
"No matter how a member of the public has the information, we would ask that they pass it on," Cox said by telephone from Lyon.
Among those wanted in the public appeal are a South African accused of child rape, a Brazilian suspected of shooting police and drug trafficking, and a Lithuanian murder suspect. The appeal includes photos of suspects' tattoos, languages spoken, and facial hair preferences.
The operation that began in May, called Infra-Red, focused on 450 fugitives and involved police from 29 countries working out of Interpol's headquarters in Lyon, France, Interpol said in a statement.
It produced new travel details, fingerprints, photographs and other information on more than 300 of the suspects.
"What we are now left with are the cases where we have no new information on their whereabouts," Cox said.
Cox said the appeal may just be the first of many by Interpol in its efforts to cast a wider net for suspects.
© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.