Police in Kenya are investigating an “online cartel” that targets girls stuck at home because of coronavirus and lures them under false pretences to what officers describe as orgies.
The case came to light after three missing teenagers were rescued by officers in the capital Nairobi.
The three told police they had seen a social media account that invited them to “parties” in the city.
Police warned parents to keep a close eye on their children’s activities.
“The DCI (Directorate of Criminal Investigations) wishes to inform the public that we are hunting down members of the cartel and they’ll be apprehended to answer for their crimes,” police said on Twitter.
Cases of young girls disappearing – some after being promised jobs – have been reported in Kenyan media in recent days.
Earlier this week the relative of one girl made a tearful appeal on Twitter fearing she had been kidnapped or trafficked.
The relative said the girl had gone missing in Nairobi on Saturday after being lured by people who were promising modelling jobs.
“My cousin along with the 16-year-old girls, six of them, have not been seen since,” the woman in the video says.
On Friday, police tweeted that child-protection detectives had rescued three of the seven girls reported missing. Efforts to trace the others were continuing, they said.
They did not reveal details of where the girls were found or if any arrests had been made.
The DCI said the cartel operated from Nairobi and was using internationally registered telephone numbers.
“As investigations go on we wish to issue a stern warning to individuals taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to prey on school girls, Their days are numbered,” the DCI tweeted.
Earlier this month the East African country tightened restrictions as a second wave of the coronavirus caused a surge in cases and deaths.
Public gatherings are banned and an overnight curfew is in place. Schools closed in March but partially reopened in October. The government has said they will not fully reopen until January.
Kenya, which has a population of 53m, has reported more than 75,000 infections and 1,349 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.