'Mrs Merkel invited me' - Leaked police report says some suspected Cologne sex attackers claimed to be refugees
A number of men involved in the Cologne sexual attacks on New Year’s Eve allegedly told police they were newly arrived Syrian refugees, according to a leaked report.
At least 100 women have sought to file criminal complaints of sexual assault and robbery during the New Year's Eve festivities in the German city, authorities said, including two accounts of rape.
The description of the attackers as “young men of Arab appearance” has whipped up anti-foreigner sentiment in the wake of the mass sexual assaults and muggings.
Now two German newspapers have claimed to have seen an internal report by a senior officer who was at the scene, where it is reported that a number of those involved in the incidents mocked officers by tearing up their residence permits and saying they “couldn’t be touched because [Angela] Merkel invited” them.
Bild reports that one of those involved allegedly told officers: “I am Syrian. You have to treat me kindly. Mrs Merkel invited me.”
Tearing up his residence permit, another said: “You can’t do anything to me, I can get a new one tomorrow.”
According to witnesses, the males, between 15 and 35 years old, tightly surrounded women in groups of 30 or 40, before groping them and mugging them and their partners.
The internal police report details that the outbreak of violence could “be far more serious than previously thought”, and at one point says that senior police officers fear “there could have been fatalities”.
“When we arrived, our vehicles were pelted with firecrackers,” the report said.
“[About] a thousand people, mostly males of an immigrant background, were indiscriminately throwing fireworks and bottles into the crowd.”
“Around 10.45pm, the station forecourt filled with people of an immigrant background. Women literally had to run the gauntlet through the mass of drunk men, in a way you can’t describe,” the report continues.
“We came to the conclusion that the situation threatened chaos or serious injury, if it didn’t lead to fatalities.”
The report goes on to say that police succeeded in clearing the area by around 12.15am but that violence continued as the crowd moved into the back streets.
“Many women came to officers shocked and crying and reported sex assaults. Police forces were unable to respond to all the events, assaults and offences. There were just too many at the same time.”
Bild does not name the author of the police report but identifies him “as the commander of some 100 officers sent as reinforcements to the area outside Cologne’s main station on New Year’s Eve”.
A local newspaper, Cologne's Express, reports that fifteen asylum-seekers from Syria and Afghanistan who had "only been in Germany for a few weeks” were briefly held by police in connection with the on New Year's Eve sex attacks.
“We arrested 15 people. These people have been in Germany for only a few days or weeks,” said an unnamed officer.
“Of these 15 people 14 are from Syria and one from Afghanistan.
“This is the truth even if it hurts.”
Police in Hamburg, Stuttgart, Frankfurt and Düsseldorf have also reported similar incidents but on a smaller scale than Cologne.
On Thursday, Germany's justice minister Heiko Maas warned that asylum-seekers could be deported if they are found to have taken part in the Cologne sexual assaults.
"All of the perpetrators, of whatever origin, must be punished", he said - noting that, under German law, criminal behaviour has a direct effect on a person's asylum proceedings.
Mr Maas called on German authorities to respond to the assaults "with the utmost determination, but also prudence."
He added: "This includes first determining the facts and the perpetrators as precisely as possible.
“This is what we now owe the victims above all else.”