The international police organization, working off tips from people who responded to a global appeal for help, said Monday it has identified a suspected pedophile shown in Internet photos abusing young boys.
The man, whose face initially was disguised behind a digitalized swirl, is now thought to be on the run in Thailand, Interpol said.
His landing card reveals the man's nationality and name, neither of which CBS News is permitted to release so far. We can reveal that he is from a Western country and that he had been working as an English teacher in South East Asia, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips.
The man was allegedly shown sexually abusing 12 young Vietnamese and Cambodian boys, apparently ranging in age from 6 to early teens, in about 200 photographs posted on the Internet. Using techniques that neither they nor Interpol would discuss, German police recreated an image of the man's face and released four reconstructed photos of him last week.
Since images were first broadcast on CBS' 60 Minutes Oct. 7, Interpol received many leads they consider worth investigating.
"In a matter of 24 hours following the appeal, we received 365 good investigative leads, and from those leads we narrowed it down to five great investigative leads that have helped us identify the location of the person and hopefully get a step closer to bringing him to justice," Ron Noble, Interpol's secretary general, told Phillips.
Interpol went public after efforts to track down the man through its network ran dry. Ronald K. Noble, Interpol's secretary-general, credited "remarkable progress" following the public response to its appeal for help on Oct. 8.
Interpol said it now knows the suspect's name, nationality, date of birth and passport number, but it did not release that information. It said the man flew from Seoul, South Korea, to Bangkok, Thailand, last Thursday, with security cameras documenting his arrival at Thai immigration.
"Thailand is at the center of an international manhunt, and authorities in the country, in cooperation with Interpol and police around the world, are hunting him down," Noble said.
In Bangkok late Monday, the deputy chief of Thailand's Interpol liaison office, police Col. Pornprasert Kanchanarin, said he was unaware of the new developments in the case. Interpol declined any further comment Monday beyond its statement.
Interpol provided two new photos of the suspect Monday. One, taken by Thai immigration officials upon his arrival in Bangkok, showed him seemingly older, with close-cropped hair and wearing glasses. The other, which Interpol said was provided by an informant, was a simple head shot of the man, smiling and ruddy-faced.
Interpol's decision to release the reconstructed photos was seen as being somewhat risky because it could have tipped off criminals to techniques police have at their disposal and prompted them to better hide their identities.
One of the pictures released last week and posted on Interpol's Web site showed the suspect with uncombed short brown hair. Another showed him with a hairy chest.
The photos date from before December 2004, when they were found on the Internet, Anders Persson, a Swedish police officer assigned to Interpol's human trafficking unit, said last week. Some were digitally stamped as having been taken in 2002 and 2003, he said.
Interpol asked people who recognized the suspect or who have other information to contact police or the Interpol bureau in their country. It urged them not to take any direct action.
Now, with the suspect at large, "we must again enlist the public's support," Noble said.
The boys believed to have been abused have not been located, Persson said.