Six arrested in child sexual exploitation probe
Six people have been arrested as part of a major police investigation into child sexual exploitation in Northern Ireland.
Five men aged 42, 56, 19, 23 and 17 and a 48-year-old woman were detained in Ballymena, Co Antrim, on Thursday morning.
The men were arrested on suspicion of rape and related offences while the woman was held over allegations of aiding and abetting rape and false imprisonment.
They are helping officers with their inquiries, police said.
Detective Chief Inspector Deirdre Bones, from the Police Service of Northern Ireland's public protection branch, said: "It is important to note that although these arrests all took place in the Ballymena area, the suspects are not all linked to each other. This is not about organised sexual abuse by a group of people.
"The arrests are part of a wider PSNI investigation focused on child sexual exploitation."
A number of searches were carried out and items removed for forensic examination.
Ms Bones has urged parents and carers to be vigilant to the risks of child sexual exploitation.
She added: "We all have a responsibility to tackle this issue and protect those who are the most vulnerable in our society.
"Child sexual exploitation is something that parents and carers everywhere need to be aware of. Think about what your children are doing, where they are going and who they are meeting.
"If you notice any changes in their behaviour, or if they receive unexplained gifts that can't be accounted for such as jewellery or mobile phones, or if you have any other concerns, it is important you take action."
Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101.