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

  • Arkansas governor sets execution dates for 8 inmates, after nearly 12-year hiatus

    World News CTV News
    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Arkansas' governor on Monday set execution dates for eight inmates over a 10-day period in an attempt to resume the death penalty after a nearly 12-year hiatus, even though the state lacks one of three drugs needed to put the men to death. Source
  • Woman eaten to death by bedbugs; caretaker charged

    World News Toronto Sun
    The caretaker for a 96-year-old woman who died after being bitten to death by bedbugs has been charged with involuntary manslaughter. Pennsylvania’s York Daily Record reports that Mary Stoner, 96, died two weeks after cops visited the home where she was living. Source
  • Patrons hurl obscenities at cops as they arrest 2 at Thunder Bay bar

    Canada News CTV News
    THUNDER BAY, Ont. - Police say officers were surrounded by patrons hurling obscenities after they arrested a man and a woman in a bar in Thunder Bay, Ont. They say when officers located the woman, who had allegedly breached a recognizance, in the bar on Friday afternoon, she tried to flee, but was immediately apprehended. Source
  • Turkey orders German newspaper journalist jailed

    World News CTV News
    ANKARA, Turkey -- A Turkish court ordered a journalist for Germany's Die Welt newspaper jailed on Monday pending a trial on charges of terrorist propaganda and inciting hatred, media reports said. The action came amid a continuing crackdown on journalists and press freedom in Turkey. Source
  • Feds need to get on top of border

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    As refugees continue to make a bee-line for Canada from the continental United States, the federal government is demonstrating how there can be such a thing as too much caution. Speaking on a television news program this weekend, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said Ottawa was taking a wait-and-see approach as it studies the influx of refugees entering Canada on foot, away official from border crossings. Source
  • 911 call: Kansas bar shooting suspect claimed he'd killed 'Iranians'

    World News CTV News
    OLATHE, Kan. -- A bartender at the restaurant where a man was arrested last week for an apparently racially motivated bar shooting of two Indian men told a 911 dispatcher that the suspect admitted shooting two people, but described them as Iranian. Source
  • Pilot who died in CF-18 crash didn't eject or call for help: DND

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- An investigation has found a pilot who died during a training mission near the Alberta-Saskatchewan boundary didn't eject or call for help before the crash. A release from the Department of National Defence says Capt. Source
  • U.S. man accused of biting victim's face in anti-Muslim attack

    World News CTV News
    MCLEAN, Va. -- A Virginia man is accused of biting another man's face after making anti-Muslim slurs in a parking lot at a busy shopping mall late last year. Fairfax County police say in a statement that 35-year-old Robin McGreer was arrested Monday and charged with bias-related malicious bodily injury. Source
  • Kevin O'Leary pulls out of Edmonton Conservative Party leadership debate

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Leadership hopeful Kevin O'Leary has pulled out of Tuesday night's Conservative Party leadership debate in Edmonton because of the "bad format". In a statement, O'Leary said the proposed format did not allow "time for ideas to be explained, or any real debate to transpire. Source
  • Suspect posed as pizza man in Ont. home invasion

    Canada News CTV News
    VAUGHAN, Ont. - Police in southern Ontario are investigating a violent home invasion after a man allegedly posing as a pizza delivery person forced his way into a residence in Vaughan, Ont. York regional police say officers were called to the home on Friday night and found two men suffering from minor injuries. Source