German police probe sex assault link

2016-01-06 13:43
A police car passes the railway station in Cologne following a series of sex assaults in Germany.  (Oliver Berg, AP).

A police car passes the railway station in Cologne following a series of sex assaults in Germany. (Oliver Berg, AP).

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Cologne - German police said on Wednesday that they were investigating whether a string of sexual assaults and thefts over New Year was linked to a known criminal network.

The assaults in Cologne last week have prompted outrage in Germany and a fresh debate about immigration after police said the perpetrators appeared to be of "Arab or North African origin."

A spokesperson for police in the nearby city of Duesseldorf said officers there had identified more than 2 000 suspects of North African origin in connection with organised theft offences since the start of 2014.

Some of the offences also involved sexual assaults as a means of distracting victims and Duesseldorf police were co-operating closely with their counterparts in Cologne to examine possible ties to crimes there, said spokesperson Markus Niesczeri.

Criminal structures

The events in Cologne involved a crowd of around a thousand men. Police say at least 90 criminal complaints were filed and that some men in the crowd formed smaller groups and surrounded women.

Authorities have cautioned that the nationality and residency status of the suspects is still unknown, since nobody has yet been arrested in connection with the offences.

Germany's top security official stressed that anyone involved must be punished regardless of where they come from. He said that "a general suspicion against refugees is just as out of place as keeping quiet about criminal structures, if they can be verified."

"All of the perpetrators, of whatever origin, must be punished," Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told Wednesday's edition of the Bild daily. "If refugees were among them, we must address that openly."

Germany registered nearly 1.1 million people as asylum seekers last year, according to Interior Ministry figures released on Wednesday.


Read more on:    germany

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