Sunday 25 September 2016

Cologne police chief axed in sex attacks backlash

Justin Huggler

Published 09/01/2016 | 02:30

Sheikh Metwaly Mousa, imam of the Islamic Community in Cologne, attends Friday prayer at the Abu Bakr mosque in the city’s suburb of Cologne Zollstock. Photo: Reuters
Sheikh Metwaly Mousa, imam of the Islamic Community in Cologne, attends Friday prayer at the Abu Bakr mosque in the city’s suburb of Cologne Zollstock. Photo: Reuters

The police chief of Cologne has been sacked amid a backlash over a wave of sexual assaults on women in the city centre on New Year's Eve, it has been reported.

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The city's authorities have been heavily criticised for their handling of the violence. They have drawn particular outrage for initially claiming there was no evidence that asylum seekers were involved in the violence, only for it to emerge that they had in fact detained several on the night.

The police chief Wolfgang Albers (60), had so far resisted calls to resign. But he was informed by the state interior minister Ralf Jaeger that he would be given early retirement, a state government source said.

And last night Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico called for an extraordinary summit of European Union leaders following the wave of New Year's Eve attacks on women in Germany.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised to respond decisively to the assaults in Cologne and elsewhere in Germany, which have stoked a fierce debate about her refugee policies after police said the attackers appeared to be of foreign origin.

Germany's interior ministry spokesman, Tobias Plate, said that police had identified 31 people suspected of playing a role in the violence, 18 of whom were in the process of seeking asylum in Germany. It was also revealed yesterday that police in Cologne have arrested two men in connection with the assaults.

Two men "of an immigrant background" were arrested overnight at the city's main station, close to the site of the attacks, police said. They have not been named under German privacy laws.

Video recordings of the New Year's Eve violence were found on the men's mobile phones, including attacks on women.

It was also revealed that one of the men was carrying a note in German and Arabic with translations of phrases including "Beautiful breasts", "I want to have sex with you" and "I'll kill you", according to police.

It was confirmed yesterday that asylum seekers are among suspects being sought over the violence.

Police have identified 31 suspects, of whom 18 are asylum seekers, the German interior ministry said. They are not suspected of sexual assault, but of physical violence and theft.

The suspects include nine Algerians, eight Moroccans, four Syrians, five Iranians, two Germans, an Iraqi, a Serb, and an American, a spokesman for the ministry said.

Federal police are carrying out their own investigations in parallel to the Cologne police. The federal force is responsible for the main station but not for the surrounding streets, where much of the worst sexual violence is believed to have occurred.

News of the arrests came as police in Finland and Switzerland reported similar sex attacks on women over the New Year.

Three asylum seekers have also been arrested in Helsinki. Finnish police said they had received information that groups of asylum seekers planned to harass women in the city. "This is a completely new phenomenon in Helsinki," lkka Koskimaki, deputy police chief, said.

Police in Zurich said six women had reported being sexually assaulted and robbed on New Year's Eve in cases "a little similar" to those in Germany.

There have been reports of similar attacks in cities across Germany and in neighbouring Austria. More than 170 women have now come forward and filed criminal complaints over the New Year's Eve incidents in Cologne, 113 of them for sexual assault.

Police say they have now identified 21 suspects from video footage, most of whom are still at large.

Where Germany’s New Year’s Eve attacks took place

Hamburg

Fifty criminal complaints have been filed by women in the northern city of Hamburg, 39 of them for sexual assault.

Düsseldorf

Eleven women have now filed criminal complaints. A group of residents have formed a vigilante group  to protect women in the  city from any further attacks.

Cologne

A total of 120 criminal complaints have now been filed following New Year’s Eve attacks by a group of 1,000 men.

Frankfurt

Police are investigating seven criminal complaints of sexual assault, including the case of three women who were surrounded by 10 men and “massively” groped.

Stuttgart

Two 18-year-old women were surrounded and groped by a group of around 15 men. They later discovered their mobile phones had been stolen. Police described the suspects as of “southern or Arab appearance”.

Weil am Rhein

A 21-year-old man and two 14-year-old boys are being held in a small town near the Swiss and German borders, for the alleged rape of two girls aged 14 and 15.

Prosecutors allege that the two girls were held for several hours and gang-raped, after attending a New Year celebration at the home of the 21-year-old man in the nearby village of Friedlingen.

Irish Independent

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