tiistai 5. tammikuuta 2016

‘New dimension of crime’: Crowd of ‘Arab origin’ blamed for mass sexual assaults in Cologne on NYE

New Year’s celebrations in the western German city of Cologne escalated into chaos with a series of sexual assaults, including a rape, being blamed on an uncontrolled crowd of intoxicated men of “Arab or North African” origin.

Women demonstrate in Cologne on January 5
Protests afterwards

The mass attack on women that happened“in the middle of the city” around Cologne Central Station on New Year's Eve was “an intolerable situation,” Chief of Police Wolfgang Albers told reporters.

So far the authorities in Cologne have received 60 complaints. The crowd of around 1,000 men attacked people in the city center in what Albers described as a “crime of a whole new dimension.”

According to report up to 1,000 heavily intoxicated men of “Arab or North African” origin flooded the city’s famous square between its central train station and Gothic cathedral. Aged between 15 and 35, the crowd began throwing firecrackers and shooting fireworks as the new year arrived.
While the festivities were happening to the sound of of cheers, some men began sexually assaulting women and pick-pocketing feasters. Some 60 criminal complaints have so far been officially filed, including at least one allegation of rape.

Authorities expect more victims to come forward in the next few days. Local media meanwhile reported that at least 80 people fell victim to the gangs, 35 of whom were subjected to sexual assaults. One of the victims, named only as Katja L, told Der Express about her ordeal with the crowd of men who assaulted her buttocks and breasts.

“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.”

To quell the New Year’s disturbance in Cologne, the police deployed more than 200 officers, involving 143 local policemen in addition to 70 federal officers, The Local reported. On Sunday, police arrested five men at the station who had been accused of threatening and robbing females.

New Year’s attacks has sparked a strong wave of criticism of German handling of the migrant open-door policy introduced by Chancellor Angela Merkel in September that resulted in over a million of refugees intake in Germany.

To address the migrant threat, Cologne’s Mayor Henriette Reker called in a crisis meeting for Tuesday, to deal with crimes she called“monstrous.”

“We cannot tolerate this development of lawlessness,” Reker told the Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper.

The state interior minister for North Rhine-Westphalia, said that swift action is needed to stop such crimes from reoccurring.

“We will not accept that groups of North African men gather expressly for the purpose of debasing women by sexually assaulting them,” Ralf Jager said in an interview with the local ‘Express’ newspaper.

Meanwhile the leader of the North Rhine-Westphalia branch of Germany's main police union, Arnold Plickert, called the New Year's assaults “a massive attack on basic rights.”

“Any refugees who have a problem integrating into our open society and respecting the rights of other people”must be dealt with using the “full force of the law,” Plickert told German press agency DPA.

German MP Steffan Bilger from Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union used the Cologne event to urge the government to change its refugee policy.

“It can’t go on like this,” he tweeted.“Urgently needed: reduction of influx, secure borders, intensifying of deportations and meaningful justice.”

Last Wednesday the Saechsische Zeitung daily reported, citing unpublished official figures, that in 2015 Germany had accommodated nearly 1.1 million refugees, five times more than in 2014.

Report: Cologne-like New Year's Eve attacks in 12 German states

Sex attacks and thefts like the ones that happened in Cologne on New Year's Eve were also reported in 12 other German states, German media say. The information comes from a leaked report of the federal criminal police.
Deutschland Silvesternacht vor dem Hauptbahnhof in Köln
The German broadcasters WDR and NDR, as well as the newspaper "Süddeutsche Zeitung," on Saturday reported that the phenomenon of sexual violence paired with thievery was more widespread on New Year's Eve than previously thought.
They cited a confidential paper prepared for interior ministers by the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). The report covered sexual offenses in public places in which the victims were also stolen from, including a type of con in which thieves approach victims and hug or otherwise surprise them, with the aim of distracting them in order to pick their pockets.
In Bavaria, 27 such attacks were reported to police, mainly in Nuremburg and Munich. In Bremen, there were 11 reports, in Berlin six and in Baden-Wurttemberg 25. In Hesse, there were 31 cases of sexual assault, sexual insults, thefts and attempted thefts.
Thefts across Germany
The report, dated January 13, said Hamburg and North Rhine-Westphalia (the state where Cologne is located) reported the highest number of offenses. In Hamburg there were 195 complaints, most of them for sexual offenses. Investigators in North Rhine-Westphalia reported 1,076 crimes altogether, mainly in the cities of Cologne, Dusseldorf and Bielefeld. That number included 692 bodily harm or property offenses and 384 sexual offenses.
Women demonstrate in Cologne on January 5
The Cologne attacks sparked protests condemning violence against women
Similar incidents were reported in Lower Saxony, Brandenburg, Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland, albeit on a much smaller scale. Federal police, who patrol main railway stations, reported 43 such notifications.
Though the suspects have not been identified, they had been reported as being men of Moroccan, Algerian or Tunisian origin. Across the country the victims were almost always female and the suspects were men aged between about 17 and 30.
Difficult to describe suspects
The report demonstrated the difficulty of describing the suspects' origins, with states using different terminology. For example, Baden-Wuerttemberg described one set of suspects as a "US American and an Algerian," another group was described as "suspects who appeared to look Arab." In Hesse, suspects were described as "men of North African/Arab/southern European/eastern European appearance." A report from North Rhine-Westphalia spoke of an "appearance of a migration background" and an "appearance of being foreign" without elaborating what exactly that meant or how it was possible to determine someone's nationality by looking at them.
An electronic information sign warning the general public against pickpockets, is displayed on an advertising board outside the main railway station and in front of Cologne Cathedral in Cologne, Germany, January 5, 2016.
Police have expressed concern about new techniques used by thieves
The investigators concluded that the nature of the reported thefts was a new form of criminality which up until now had not been widely experienced across Germany. The report's authors noted, however, that it provided only a snapshot of the situation, which continued to be "dynamic."
Scotland Yard brought in
Meanwhile, police investigating the Cologne attacks have enlisted the help of specialists from London. The so-called "super recognizers" from Scotland Yard will assist in analyzing video footage from New Year's Eve. Their ability to pick out faces in a crowd is considered superior to facial recognition software.
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