• Germany's news in English
 
jobs_header_v3

Most Cologne attackers 'of foreign origin'

AFP/DPA/The Local · 11 Jan 2016, 12:36

Published: 11 Jan 2016 12:36 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Ralf Jäger, the interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia state, released initial findings of a criminal probe over the crime spree that has piled pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel over her liberal stance towards refugees.

"Witness accounts and the report by the (local) police as well as findings by the federal police indicate that nearly all the people who committed these crimes were of foreign origin," he said.

Although no formal charges have been laid, Jäger said the attackers emerged from a group of more than 1,000 "Arab and North African" men who gathered between the main railway station and the city's iconic Gothic cathedral during the year-end festivities.

But Jäger also reserved some criticism for the police, following up on his decision to suspend Cologne police chief Wolfgang Albers on Friday.

Commanders had not called on "desperately needed reinforcements for the unexpected developments in the situation" at the main railway station, he told fellow representatives in the Düsseldorf state parliament at a special session on Monday.

Jäger, Cologne mayor Henriette Reker, and others have also accused the police of hiding the racial background of the attackers in the days after January 1st.

SEE ALSO: Cologne police chief suspended after mayor's final blow

"The picture the police gave out on New Year's Eve is unacceptable," he said.

Racist violence breaks out in Cologne

Amid concerns over reprisal assaults, police said a mob attacked a group of six Pakistanis late Sunday in Cologne, two of whom had to be hospitalised.

Shortly afterwards, five unidentified assailants attacked a 39-year-old Syrian national, injuring him slightly.

After far-right protests erupted in Cologne during the weekend, a sister group of the xenophobic PEGIDA movement was due to hold another rally later Monday in the eastern city of Leipzig.

A police water cannon truck is seen in the background behind Pegida demonstrators in Cologne on Sunday. Photo: DPA

In the face of outrage over the New Year's Eve violence, Merkel has taken a tough line against convicted refugees.

She has signalled her backing for changes to the law to ease expulsion rules, with officials within her ruling coalition expected to swiftly negotiate the proposals this week.

Police said late Sunday that more than a week on from New Year's Eve, some 516 complaints had now been lodged, including 40 percent that are related to sexual assault.

Witnesses described terrifying scenes of hundreds of women running a gauntlet of groping hands, lewd insults and robberies in the mob violence.

'Assaults were planned'

The scale of the Cologne assaults has shocked Germany and put a spotlight on the 1.1 million asylum seekers who arrived in the country last year.

It has also fuelled fear, with a poll published by the Bild am Sonntag newspaper saying that 39 percent of those surveyed felt police did not provide sufficient protection for the public at large, while 57 percent did.

And just under half (49 percent) believed the same sort of mob violence could hit their hometown, reported the newspaper which headlined its article with the question: "Is the New Year's Eve scandal the result of wrong policies?"

A separate poll by broadcaster RTL found that 57 percent of Germans feared crime would rise along with the record influx of asylum seekers, while 40 percent disagreed.

Nevertheless a majority - 60 percent - said their opinion of foreigners has not changed, while 37 percent said they have become more critical and negative about newcomers.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas. Photo: DPA

Justice Minister Heiko Maas has said he believed the violence in the western city of Cologne was organised.

"For such a horde of people to meet and commit such crimes, it has to have been planned somehow," he told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

"No one can tell me that this was not coordinated or planned. The suspicion is that a specific date and an expected crowd was picked," he said.

Quoting confidential police reports, Bild am Sonntag said some North Africans had sent out calls using social networks for people to gather in Cologne on New Year's Eve.

Separately in Hamburg, police said they had received 133 criminal complaints for similar violence during the northern city's own New Year's Eve celebrations.

Turning point?

With thousands of asylum seekers still streaming into Germany every day, Merkel has come under fire, even within her own conservative alliance, who want her to put a cap on the number of refugees in the country.

Critics have questioned Germany's ability to integrate the unprecedented number of newcomers, many of whom hail from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Merkel had until now not wavered from her stance but has adopted a firmer tone after Cologne, even pledging to change the law to make it easier to expel convicted asylum seekers.

"It's not premature to speak of a turning point (after Cologne), or at least the reinforcing of a trend that had already started to take shape lately," Andreas Rödder, contemporary history professor at Mainz University told AFP.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit


Today's headlines
Nazi POW leaves estate to 'kind' Scottish village
The former German soldier stayed on to work in the Perthshire village for a time after the war. Photo: Andy Buchanan / AFP file picture

A former Nazi prisoner of war has left his entire estate in his will to a small village in Scotland to show his appreciation for the kindness he received there during his captivity.

US tries to block Chinese purchase of Aixtron
Photo: Oliver Berg / DPA / AFP

US President Barack Obama on Friday moved to block a Chinese company's purchase of German semiconductor equipment maker Aixtron by rejecting the inclusion of Aixtron's US business in the deal.

Merkel to chart 2017 election battle at party congress
Photo: Tobias Schwarz / AFP

After Donald Trump's shock victory, Francois Hollande's decision not to seek re-election and populism on the rise, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is next up on the campaign podium to set out her strategy for winning in 2017 polls.

Berlin vs Munich: whose newborn polar bear is cuter?
Berlin's (left) and Munich's (right) newborn bears. Photos: Tierpark Berlin / DPA

Both city zoos welcomed baby polar bears into the world in November, with Berlin zoo its releasing first photos on Friday. But which one is more adorable?

Learn how to speak German like a silver screen icon
Dirty Harry. Photo: DPA

We all agree that there is no other option than to learn irregular German verbs by rote. But when you want a bit of downtime, why not learn from your big screen heroes?

Stolen Dachau 'Work will set you free' gate found: police
The entrance to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Photo: DPA

An iron gate from the former Nazi concentration camp in Germany's Dachau with the slogan "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work will set you free") has been found two years after it was stolen, police said Friday.

Mystery flight path artist draws new message in sky
Photo: DPA

A pilot who likes to draw patterns in the sky using his flight path has returned with his greatest artwork yet.

Berlin 'abusing power' to stop Snowden coming to Germany
Edward Snowden. Photo: DPA

Opposition parties have accused the coalition government of overstepping its authority in its attempt to block American whistleblower Edward Snowden's trip to Germany.

Germany gains record number of Michelin-star restaurants
Head of the Michelin Guide, Michael Ellis (centre) with Michelin-star chefs at a presentation in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

Germany had a slew of newly minted Michelin-star restaurants this year, and its top-rated establishments held onto their prestigious three stars.

At last: Germany passes major disabled rights reform
People in wheelchairs watch as the German parliament deliberates on the new disability rights reform. Photo: DPA.

For years people with disabilities in Germany have called for legislation to provide them with better benefits and opportunities in life and work. On Thursday the German parliament passed such a reform - but is it enough?

Lifestyle
10 German Christmas cookies you have to bake this winter
Sponsored Article
The key to launching your international career
Lifestyle
Our 10-step guide for doing Christmas just like a German
National
Here's why so many Germans vote for the far-right AfD
National
7 events in Germany that'll make December unforgettable
Lifestyle
7 frosty German sayings to make you a winter wordsmith
National
This is how unequal German society has become
National
Six things you should know about the Lufthansa strike
National
9 ways living in Germany will make you a better person
National
These 10 German Christmas markets cannot be missed
Features
8 German words that unlock amazing secrets in English
Culture
10 German words with simply hilarious literal translations
Lifestyle
7 things Germans do that make foreigners feel awkward
International
Why Donald Trump's grandad was booted out of Germany
National
This is what is really inside your Döner kebab
National
Rejoice! Christmas markets start opening across Germany
Education
These German universities are best at landing you a job
Travel
Why Heidelberg is Germany's most inspiring city
Lifestyle
This soppy German Christmas ad will bring you to tears
National
Here's where Germans speak the best (and worst) English
Culture
10 German books you have to read before you die
Culture
U-Bahn train found filled with autumn foliage in Berlin
Features
Seven German words that unlock amazing secrets about English
Travel
Germany's ten most beautiful towns you've never visited
6,619
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd