Cologne sex attacks: Mob attacks group of migrants in ‘manhunt’ for suspects

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Nearly all of the men involve in Cologne’s New Year’s Eve sex attacks were migrants, Germany’s interior ministry has indicated.

“Based on testimony from witnesses, the report from the Cologne police and descriptions by the federal police, it looks as if people with a migration background were almost exclusively responsible for the criminal acts,” Ralf Jaeger, interior minister from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, said on Monday.

His remarks come amid a violent backlash against the migrant community in Germany after a gang of men reportedly assaulted a group of Pakistani and Syrian asylum seekers on Sunday night.

The victims were injured in the attack, which took place near Cologne train station and they had to be taken to hospital.

Cologne’s local newspaper Der Express reported that a group of thugs had planned a “manhunt” for asylum seekers.

And Germany’s interior ministry went on to excoriate Cologne police in a statement today for making “very serious mistakes” in their handling of the New Year’s Eve attacks.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas said: “As abominable as the crimes in Cologne and other cities were, one thing remains clear: there is no justification for blanket agitation against foreigners…[some people] appear just to have been waiting for the events of Cologne.”

Angela Merkel is also under intense pressure over her response to the spate of sexual assaults in the west German city and last night cancelled her visit to the Davos World Economic Forum amid growing public anger.

The Pope has also waded into the row and on Monday urged European leaders not to to lose “the values and principles of humanity … however much they may prove, in some moments of history, a burden difficult to bear.”

“Many migrants from Asia and Africa see in Europe a beacon for principles such as equality before the law and for values inherent in human nature,” he said, adding that many European countries were struggling to cope with the influx of migrants and refugees.

German authorities are on Monday due to release the first details of their probe into a rash of assaults on New Year’s Eve blamed on migrants, as police revealed that the number of complaints filed has topped 500.

The figures are a big increase from the 379 cases police reported on Saturday.

Ralf Jaeger, the interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia state, is expected to unveil more details when he is questioned by regional politicians over the crime spree against women that has piled pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel over her liberal stance towards refugees.

Even though no formal charges have been laid, Cologne police have said those suspected over the rampage near the city’s railway station were mostly asylum seekers and illegal migrants from North Africa.

After far-right protests erupted in Cologne during the weekend, a sister group of the xenophobic Pegida movement is due to hold another rally later Monday in the eastern city of Leipzig.

In the face of outrage over the Cologne violence, Mrs Merkel has taken a tough line against convicted refugees.

She has signalled her backing for changes to the law to ease expulsion rules, with officials within her ruling coalition expected to swiftly negotiate the proposals this week.

Police said late on Sunday that more than a week on from New Year’s Eve, some 516 complaints had now been lodged, including 40 per cent that are related to sexual assault.

Witnesses described terrifying scenes of hundreds of women running a gauntlet of groping hands, lewd insults and robberies in the mob violence.

The scale of the Cologne assaults has shocked Germany and put a spotlight on the 1.1 million asylum seekers who arrived in the country last year.

It has also fuelled fear, with a poll published by the Bild am Sonntag newspaper saying that 39 per cent of those surveyed felt police did not provide sufficient protection, while 57 percent did.

And just under half (49 per cent) believed the same sort of mob violence could hit their hometown, reported the newspaper which headlined its article with the question: “Is the New Year’s Eve scandal the result of wrong policies?”

Heiko Maas, justice minister, said he believed the violence in the western city of Cologne was organised.

“For such a horde of people to meet and commit such crimes, it has to have been planned somehow,” he told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

“No one can tell me that this was not coordinated or planned. The suspicion is that a specific date and an expected crowd was picked.”

Quoting confidential police reports, Bild am Sonntag said some North Africans had sent out calls using social networks for people to gather in Cologne on New Year’s Eve.

  • Hamburg

    50 criminal complaints have been filed by women in the northern city of Hamburg, 39 of them for sexual assault

  • Düsseldorf

    Eleven women filed criminal complaints. A group of residents has formed a vigilante group to protect women in the city from further attacks

  • Cologne

    120 criminal complaints filed following New Years Eve attacks by group of 1,000 men

  • Frankfurt

    Police are investigating seven criminal complaints of sexual assault, including the case of three women who were surrounded by a group of 10 men and “massively” groped

  • Stuttgart

    Two 18-year-old women were surrounded and groped by a group of around 15 men. They later discovered their mobile phones had been stolen. Police described the suspects as of “southern or Arab appearance”

  • Weil am Rhein

    A 21-year-old man and two 14-year-old boys are being held in a small town near the Swiss and German borders, for the alleged rape of two girls aged 14 and 15.

    Prosecutors allege that the two girls were held for several hours and gang-raped after attending a New Year celebration at the home of the 21-year-old man in the nearby village of Friedlingen

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