Friday 1 July 2016

Two teenage girls gang-raped by four 'Syrian nationals' in southern Germany

Published 08/01/2016 | 07:53

Police officers patrol in front of the main station of Cologne, Germany. (AP Photo/Hermann J. Knippertz)
Police officers patrol in front of the main station of Cologne, Germany. (AP Photo/Hermann J. Knippertz)

Two teenage girls were reportedly held captive and raped by four Syrians on New Year's Eve in a horrific ordeal lasting for several hours, according to the latest revelation from the slew of sex attacks against women across Germany.

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Three Syrians - including two boys - have been arrested in southern Germany in connection with the crime.

Germany has been left reeling with the latest disclosure from the series of sex attacks  flood in of sexual assaults against women across the country.

The man (21) and two boys (aged 14) are being held in the Weil am Rhein, for the alleged rape of two girls aged 14 and 15.

Lawyers have said 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.

Although the suspects have been in custody for several days, news of the arrests only emerged last night .

Police are said to be searching for another suspect - believed to be a 15-year-old boy - in connection with the attacks.

While lawyers have said they do not believe that he incident is connected to the slew of attacks in Cologne and other German cities over the New Year, it is the latest shocking disclosure.

The suspects are not thought to be asylum-seekers. The 21-year-old man and his brother are long-term German residents, while the two 14-year-olds live in Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised to respond decisively to assaults on women in Cologne on New Year's Eve which have stoked a fierce debate about her refugee policies after police said the attackers appeared to be of foreign origin.

Some 121 women are reported to have been robbed, threatened or sexually molested there by gangs of mostly drunk men between 18 and 35 years old while out celebrating. Police say they have identified 16 suspects.

Cologne's police chief, under pressure for the force's handling of the event, has said the perpetrators appeared to be of "Arab or North African" origin.

German magazine Focus and newspaper Die Welt said police had found registration papers on some of the suspects, suggesting they had only recently arrived in the country. But authorities have not confirmed that.

Merkel, whose support slipped last year when she resisted pressure to impose caps on refugees, insisting Germany could cope with the 1.1 million migrants who arrived in 2015, said the events were "completely unacceptable" and "intolerable".

"There are some very serious questions which arise from what has happened which have relevance beyond Cologne," she said, including establishing whether there are common patterns of behaviour by some groups of people who do not respect women.

She said she would consider changing the law, boosting police numbers and making sure the deportation system was effective. She added that "cultural coexistence" must be continually discussed.

"We have a duty to give the right answers," she said.

Germans have been shocked by the attacks, which are reported to have taken place on a smaller scale in other cities including Hamburg. A poll for broadcaster ARD showed that 30 percent of those surveyed said they would avoid big crowds because of the events in Cologne.

Similar events may have taken place in other countries.

Finnish police say they received information that assaults had been planned on women at new year. In Switzerland, about six women have reported being sexually molested and robbed during New Year's Eve celebrations in Zurich after being surrounded by groups of men.

The ARD poll also showed 57 percent of those asked wanted to bring back border controls, up 12 points from September.

Right-wing parties in Germany, including the Alternative for Germany (AfD), have jumped on the events to renew calls for a limit on the number of refugees allowed into Germany and for Merkel to close the country's border.

Top-selling daily Bild published excerpts of a report from a policeman on duty in Cologne on New Year's Eve which was later confirmed as accurate by police.

One man is reported to have grinned as he ripped up his residency permit and told a policeman: "You can't do anything to me. I'll just pick up another one tomorrow."

Another is reported to have said: "I'm Syrian. You need to be nice to me. Frau Merkel invited me here."

German weekly Die Zeit contrasted the violence in Cologne with the feel-good scenes in Munich four months ago when locals greeted arriving refugees with cheers, food and blankets.

Even if there was no proof the attackers were recent arrivals, the newspaper said that what happened seemed to confirm the fears of some Germans that young men were coming into the country who were violent, disdainful of women and prepared to ignore German laws.

"Cologne is a tipping point. Policy towards refugees must not be reinvented because of these assaults. But can only be sold successfully if the rule of law is defended with determination," the paper wrote.

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