More women allege sexual assaults, robberies in Cologne

COLOGNE, Germany -- More women came forward Wednesday alleging they were sexually assaulted and robbed during New Year's Eve celebrations in the German city of Cologne, as police faced mounting criticism for their handling of the incident.

See Full Article

At least 106 criminal complaints have been filed since last week, Cologne police spokesman Christoph Gilles said. The figure has increased from 90 since Tuesday.

"At least three quarters have a sexual component. In two cases we are investigating crimes that amount to rape," Gilles told The Associated Press.

About 1,000 men described by police as being of "Arab or North African origin" gathered around Cologne's main station, next to the city's famous cathedral, on the night from Thursday to Friday. Smaller groups then surrounded individual women, harassed them and stole their belongings.

Police initially failed to mention the assaults in report the following morning, describing the festivities as "largely peaceful."

Details of the attacks only emerged over the weekend and calls have grown for a comprehensive review of police actions on the night, after some witnesses claimed that officers didn't stop the attackers.

Gilles said police were well prepared on the night, but "surprised" by the scale and aggression of the attacks.

Mayor Henriette Reker said she expected police to analyze what went wrong and "draw consequences from that."

She didn't elaborate on what that would entail. Police chief Wolfgang Albers has shrugged off questions about his own future, saying that he will stay in his post, though he acknowledged that the initial failure to mention the assaults was a mistake.

Ralf Jaeger, North Rhine-Westphalia state's interior minister, said he expected a detailed report from Cologne police this week on who knew what when.

"The Cologne police force must clear up meticulously what happened where and when, what police could know and evaluate when and where, and what measures have to be taken."

Gilles, the police spokesman, said the city has 10 officers working on the attacks and four men have been detained.

Among the angles police are investigating is whether there are any links to similar crimes committed over the past two years in the nearby city of Duesseldorf, where men have groped women to distract them before stealing their belongings. The two cities are 40 kilometres (25 miles) apart.

Markus Niesczeri, a spokesman for Duesseldorf police, said that since the start of 2014, officers there have identified more than 2,000 suspects of North African origin in connection with organized thefts, though he didn't say how many. He declined to say whether there have been any arrests in those cases.

"At the moment we can't make a serious connection because we don't have the perpetrators from New Year's Eve," Gilles said. "It's not excluded that there are overlaps, but that's still the subject of investigation."

Police are encouraging more women to come forward.

"Most of the victims were from outside Cologne who filed criminal complaints in their home towns or with federal police," Gilles said, adding that they included women of all ages and nationalities.

In addition to widespread shock over the scale and nature of the attacks, the incident has also fueled public debate about Germany's ability to integrate large numbers of migrants.

Germany registered nearly 1.1 million people as asylum seekers last year, according to Interior Ministry figures released Wednesday, and some politicians who have called for limits on migration have seized on the incident in Cologne to bolster their position.

Germany's top security official stressed that those involved must be punished regardless of where they come from. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said that "you cannot draw a general suspicion against refugees from the indications that they were perhaps people who looked North African."

He added that "a bit of patience is necessary to clear up as completely as possible the structure of the perpetrators and the organizational structures there might have been," including whether there was any link to similar, smaller-scale incidents on New Year's Eve in Hamburg.

De Maiziere noted that, under German law, criminal behaviour has a direct effect on a person's asylum proceedings if he or she is sentenced to at least three years in prison. He said that "we will have to talk about whether that needs to be changed."

In any case, "anyone who commits serious crimes, whatever status he is in, must reckon with being deported from Germany," de Maiziere said.

Antonia Rabente, a 26-year-old student in Cologne, said the mood in the city was divided.

"On the one hand there's a feeling that what happened is wrong and many people concerned about this. But where people are split is in how to respond," she said. "I think it's important to keep the focus on the women who were affected. They need to be the focus of attention now and not misused for attacks on the right to asylum."

About 100 people protested Wednesday against a far-right rally near the train station that numbered less than 10 people.

Watching from nearby, Gudrun Sauer, a retired civil servant, said she was disappointed by the events and called for a change in the law to allow foreigners found guilty of serious crimes to be deported regardless of whether they face possible persecution in their home country.

But she disagreed with those who blamed the latest wave of refugees for the assaults.

"The people who come here and went through such hardship, they're hoping for a better future here," said Sauer. "I don't think they'd risk doing something like that. You shouldn't throw everything in one pot."

Cologne's mayor, meanwhile, was mocked on social media for saying, when asked Tuesday about what women can do to protect themselves better: "There is always the possibility of keeping a certain distance, more than an arm's length" from strangers.

Some of those who criticized her felt that Reker was blaming women for the attacks and lambasted the idea that women could have simply protected themselves by keeping men at arm's length.

Reker said Wednesday that she regretted any misunderstanding, but had merely been pointing to existing prevention and counselling programs in response to a journalist's question.

"The priority is for concrete security to be provided on our streets and squares," she said in a statement.

Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Two wildfires burning in B.C.'s Northern Interior and Cariboo regions

    Canada News CTV News
    100 MILE HOUSE, B.C. -- There are two wildfires burning in the Cariboo and Northern Interior regions of B.C. BC Wildfire Service says a containment line has been established around an out-of-control wildfire near 100 Mile House. Source
  • Professor fired for racially charged remarks on Fox News

    World News CBC News
    A New Jersey community college has fired an adjunct professor after officials say she made racially insensitive comments on Fox News. Essex County College's president announced the decision Friday, two weeks after Lisa Durden appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight. Source
  • 'It's definitely a crisis,' says family after three Cape Breton teen suicides

    Canada News CTV News
    The family of a young transgender teenager who took his own life is calling on the Nova Scotia government to do more to address what they’re calling a suicide crisis in Cape Breton. Justin Newell died by suicide on June 3. Source
  • Canadians not shy at wrapping themselves in the Canada 150 logo

    Canada News CBC News
    It's been said that Canadians are not brash about their patriotism, but you wouldn't know it from the variety of merchandise, big and small, being snapped up in advance of Canada's 150th birthday July 1. From T-shirts to hats, flags to flasks, condoms to caskets, goods adorned with celebratory logos are popping up faster than you can say sesquicentennial. Source
  • HL:Trump: Not 'that far off' from passing health overhaul

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Making a final push, President Donald Trump said he doesn't think congressional Republicans are "that far off" on a health overhaul to replace "the dead carcass of Obamacare" and signalled that last-minute changes were coming to win enough support for passage. Source
  • Trump: Not 'that far off' from passing health overhaul

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Making a final push, U.S. President Donald Trump said he doesn't think congressional Republicans are "that far off" on a health overhaul to replace "the dead carcass of Obamacare" and signalled that last-minute changes were coming to win enough support for passage. Source
  • Crowd catches teen falling from park ride; no serious injury

    World News CTV News
    QUEENSBURY, N.Y. -- A teenager fell about about 8 metres from a stopped gondola ride at an upstate New York amusement park Saturday night, tumbling into a crowd of park guests and employees gathered below to catch her before she hit the ground. Source
  • Toronto Pride parade draws revellers from around the world

    Canada News CBC News
    The annual Pride parade is one of Toronto's biggest celebrations, drawing tens of thousands of revellers into the city to fête the LGBT community. Reading this on mobile? Find our live blog hereAbout 150 different organizations, businesses and groups are participating in the two-hour parade. Source
  • Some U.S. pride parades disrupted by protests

    World News Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — Gay pride parades Sunday in New York, San Francisco and other cities are spotlighting resistance to what participants see as new pressure on gay rights, while contending with the prospect of protests over the events’ own diversity and direction. Source
  • Float in Montreal parade sparks allegations of racism

    Canada News CTV News
    A video taken at Saturday’s St. Jean Baptiste parade in Montreal is sparking outrage among some -- and calls for calm among others. The video shows pop singer Annie Villeneuve on Rue St. Denis on a float being pushed by what appears to be only people of colour. Source