BERLIN: The German police have started a massive investigation into the reports of a group of some 1,000 men carrying out a mass sexual assault on dozens of women during the New Year’s Eve, The Independent reported.
Police have received several complaints from women who said they were sexually assaulted, ranging from groping to at least one reported rape, allegedly committed in a large crowd of revellers during year-end festivities at Cologne city’s main train station.
One of the victims claimed that she was raped in the centre of the city.
Police in Cologne said they had received 90 criminal complaints by Tuesday and quoted witnesses as saying that groups of 20-30 young men “who appeared to be of Arab origin” had surrounded victims, assaulted them and in several cases robbed them.
Cologne Police Chief Wolfgang Albers said the case is “a completely new dimension of crime”.
“We assume more people will come forward,” a police spokesperson told German news agency DPA.
The German government has also condemned dozens of apparently coordinated sexual assaults blamed on Arab men but warned against anti-migrant scapegoating.
Justice Minister Heiko Mass called for a thorough investigation of the rash of attacks.
“The authorities are working intensively to determine who was behind this,” he told reporters, adding that the assaults had appeared to be “coordinated”.
Asked by a journalist whether the attackers could have been refugees, Maas said police were still working to identify them.
“This is not about where someone is from but what they did,” he said.
“Making an issue out of it, lumping it together with the refugee issue, is nothing but exploitation. Now is the time to determine the facts and then decide on the necessary consequences.”
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said he was also stunned by the “despicable” attacks.
“However this must not lead to refugees of whatever origin, who are seeking our protection from persecution, being placed under general suspicion.”
Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker called a crisis meeting with political officials and police Tuesday after the case made national headlines.
In mid-October, Reker was stabbed in the neck in an attack apparently over her welcoming stance toward refugees.