Anti-mafia police have broken up a Romanian human trafficking gang which forced dozens of kidnapped victims including children into beggary and slavery, rescuing five people from a village in central Romania.
"Today we rescued three adults and two children," said a prosecutor from the DIICOT Directorate for Fighting Organised Crime and Terrorism, adding that police had arrested 29 suspects thought to be part of the ring.
DIICOT said it was conducting a hunt around the site, some 170 kilometres (105 miles) northwest of Bucharest, to catch more crime ring members and that the overall number of victims is believed to be about 40.
"The people were locked, chained and undressed during the night, beaten and forced to eat lunch off the floor for the amusement of the suspects ... There is also suspicion that some of the victims were raped," DIICOT said in a statement.
An image taken by the special police during the rescue operation showed a young barefoot man hand-chained to the porch of a crumbling white-washed mud house in the small village of Berevoiesti.
The DIICOT said some of the victims had been kidnapped from around public places such as railway stations since 2008 and had been fed only scraps of food by their masters. No other details about the victims or their whereabouts were disclosed.