Cologne mass sexual assault: German police search for 1,000 men
Police: many of the men known for some time and were not newly-arrived refugees
Police are investigating reports of a group of 1,000 men carrying out a mass sexual assault on dozens of women in the middle of a German city on New Year's Eve.
German police has received numerous complaints from women who said they were groped and attacked in Cologne city centre. One woman has claimed she was raped.
Wolfgang Albers, the Cologne police chief, says witnesses described the assaults as coming from a group of up to 1,000 men whose appearance indicated they were of "Arab or North African origin."
He said the incidents were "a completely new dimension of crime".
An MP in Angela Merkel's party has claimed the events are proof Germany needs to tighten its borders.
But the police also said many of the men had been known to them for some time and were not newly-arrived refugees, according to The Local.
The crowd, believed to be men between 15 and 35 who were possibly intoxicated, reportedly flooded the city's famous square and began to throw firecrackers and shoot fireworks.
As the festivities took place outside the famous Cologne cathedral, some of the men allegedly began sexually assaulting women and pickpocketing others, according to Reuters.
Local media reported that at least 80 people fell victim to the assaults, 35 of whom were sexually assaulted.
One of the victims, named only as Katja L, told Der Express her buttocks and breasts were grabbed.
“I was groped everywhere. It was a nightmare. Although we shouted and beat them, the guys did not stop. I was desperate and think I was touched around 100 times in the 200 meters,” she said.
“Fortunately I wore a jacket and trousers. A skirt would probably have been torn away from me.”
Some 60 criminal complaints have so far been filed, including the allegation of rape.
MP Steffan Bilger from Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union has claimed the events in Cologne were proof Germany needed to reduce its intake of refugees.
“It can’t go on like this,” he tweeted. “Urgently needed: reduction of influx, secure borders, intensifying of deportations and meaningful justice.”
But others urged Germans not to jump to conclusions, with one user tweeting "“it makes me sad that the refugees who really need protection will bear the brunt of the hatred because of Cologne.
"We need to be able to tell the difference.”
Police sent 143 local officers and 70 federal officers into the area in a large-scale operation to clear the area.
But due to the dark and sheer scale of people, Mr Albers said that this operation was not effective.