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'Hackers' arrested in police swoops

Twenty-five suspected members of the Anonymous hacker movement have been arrested in police raids across Europe and South America.

International police agency Interpol said the arrests in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Spain were carried out by officers working under the support of Interpol's Latin American Working Group of Experts on Information Technology Crime.

The suspects, aged between 17 and 40, are believed to have planned co-ordinated cyber-attacks against institutions including Colombia's defence ministry and presidential websites, Chile's Endesa electricity company and national library, as well as other targets.

The arrests followed an investigation in mid-February which also led to the seizure of 250 items of IT equipment and mobile phones in searches of 40 premises in 15 cities, Interpol said.

Police in Spain announced the arrest of four suspected Anonymous hackers in connection with attacks on Spanish political party websites. These four were among the 25 announced by Interpol.

A National Police statement said two servers used by the group in Bulgaria and the Czech Republic had been blocked.

It said the four included the alleged manager of Anonymous' computer operations in Spain and Latin America, who was identified only by his initials and the aliases "Thunder" and "Pacotron".

One of Anonymous' most spectacular coups was secretly recording a conference call between US and British cyber-investigators tasked with bringing the group to justice.

Anonymous has no real membership structure. Hackers, activists and supporters can claim allegiance to its freewheeling principles at their convenience, so it is unclear what impact the arrests will have.

Some internet chatter appeared to point to a revenge attack on Interpol's website.

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