Cologne sex attacks: Police could not cope - report

  • 7 January 2016
  • From the section Europe
Media caption"They touched us everywhere"

An internal police report reveals officers "could not cope" with the volume of attacks in Cologne on New Year's Eve, German media say.

Women were "forced to run the gauntlet" through gangs of drunken and aggressive men outside the station, it said.

Police say the number of reported crimes from the incident has risen to 121, about three-quarters of which involve sexual assault.

They have identified 16 suspects, but have made no new arrests.

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In the report by Germany's national police, seen by Spiegel and Bild newspapers, an unidentified senior officer describes the scene in Cologne on New Year's Eve as "chaotic and shameful".

It recounts how police were met by "anxious citizens with crying and shocked children" when they arrived at the city's main railway station.

"On the square outside were several thousand men, most of a migrant background, who were firing all kinds of fireworks and throwing bottles into the crowd at random."

German media, also quoting internal police reports, say that significant numbers of Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi migrants were in the crowd - although it is unclear if any were involved in the attacks.

What we know of the New Year's Eve attacks

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Police say the situation outside the station was out of control
  • Scores of women say they were sexually assaulted and had mobile phones and bags stolen by large groups of men during New Year celebrations in the centre of Cologne
  • As many as 1,000 men - described as drunk and aggressive and many of North African and Arab appearance - were reported to have been behind the attacks
  • Cologne police say they have received 121 criminal complaints - at least three-quarters of those were of sexual assault, including two alleged rapes
  • Sixteen suspects have been identified but no-one has yet been arrested, police say
  • Similar attacks were reported in Hamburg, where 30 complaints were filed, and in Stuttgart

Officers managed to clear the square, but the chaos continued with shocked and crying women reporting large numbers of sexual assaults.

"The task forces could not cope with all the events, assaults, and crimes - there were just too many happening at the same time," the senior officer concluded in the national police report.

Cologne police chief Wolfgang Albers has rejected claims teams were understaffed, insisting "we were well prepared".

But he described what happened as "a completely new dimension of crime".

Media captionA woman tells the BBC's Jenny Hill how she and her friends became surrounded

An initial police assessment - describing a "relaxed atmosphere" in the city on New Year's Eve - was later dismissed as inaccurate.

Correspondents say the identification of the attackers as North African or Arab in appearance has caused alarm in Germany because of the influx of more than a million migrants and refugees in the past year.

Speaking in Berlin on Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany needed to examine whether it had done enough to deport foreigners who committed crimes.

"What happened on New Year is not acceptable. These are repugnant criminal acts that a state, that Germany will not accept.

"We must examine again and again whether we have already done what is necessary in terms of deportations from Germany, in order to send clear signals to those who are not prepared to abide by our legal order."

"I feel so ashamed" - Anger on Arab-language social media

Facebook user Israa Ragab: "Every time I watch the TV and hear them saying the suspects could be from North Africa or Arabs I feel so ashamed and disgusted"

Deutsche Welle Arabic journalist Nahla Elhenawy: "The ugliness of our region is reaching Germany"

@Farcry99 on Twitter: "Will Europe regret receiving people who suffer from religious and political repression?"

Arab social media fury at Cologne attacks

As well as the attacks in Cologne, women were targeted in Hamburg and Stuttgart.

In Duesseldorf, 40km (25 miles) to the north of Cologne, police have been investigating claims that gangs of men from North Africa have been robbing their victims by deliberate body contact.

They are examining whether there is a link to similar claims in Cologne.

Earlier Ralf Jaeger, interior minister for North Rhine-Westphalia, said police had to "adjust" to the fact that groups of men had attacked women en masse.

He also warned that anti-immigrant groups were trying to use the attacks to stir up hatred against refugees.

"What happens on right-wing platforms and in chatrooms is at least as awful as the acts of those assaulting the women," he said. "This is poisoning the climate of our society."

The "anti-Islamisation" Pegida movement and the right-wing AfD have said the attacks were a consequence of large-scale migration.

But Cologne's mayor said there was no reason to believe those behind the attacks were refugees.

Public broadcaster ZDF has apologised on social media because it failed to report on the mass assaults on its Monday evening news bulletin, after the news began to emerge.

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