BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese security forces have broken up a human trafficking network and freed 75 girls, mostly Syrians, they said were beaten and forced into prostitution.
A statement by the internal security forces, published on the National News Agency, said they arrested 10 men and eight women who had been guarding the girls during raids earlier this week on nightclubs and apartments in Jounieh, north of Beirut.
It said the girls had been beaten and tortured and forced into prostitution by various means including threats to publish pictures of them naked.
Two members of the group, which the security forces described as the most dangerous human trafficking network in the country, were still on the run, the statement said.
The five-year conflict in Syria has driven more than a million refugees into neighboring Lebanon. Many are impoverished and vulnerable.
A security source said some of the girls were believed to have been lured from refugee settlements or sold to the group by other Syrians.
Reporting by Dominic Evans; Editing by Mark Trevelyan