Cologne sex attacks: Demand spikes for self-defence arms

A banner with flowers is placed on the steps to the Cologne cathedral, reading in English and Arabic "sexual harassment against women will not be tolerated". (AP)
A banner with flowers is placed on the steps to the Cologne cathedral, reading in English and Arabic "sexual harassment against women will not be tolerated". (AP)

Berlin - Demand for self-defence weapons has spiked in and around the German city of Cologne since the New Year's Eve mass sexual attacks blamed on migrants, police said on Thursday.

Cologne police said on Facebook they had received a large number of applications for licences allowing people to carry imitation handguns that can fire flares and teargas, called "gas pistols" in Germany.

Public fears have risen since New Year's Eve, when hundreds of women were groped and robbed in a throng of mostly Arab and North African men outside the main railway station of Cologne.

Sales of pepper spray and teargas have also spiked in Cologne and nearby areas, newspapers have reported.

"Since the start of the year we have sold twice as much self-defence spray as usual and sales of gas guns have risen by about a third," a shop owner in Neuss, north of Cologne, told the Rheinische Post daily.

"It's mostly men buying spray for their wives and daughters."

Two weeks after the attacks, as more women have come forward, the number of criminal complaints reached 652 by Thursday, including 331 sex-related crimes, Cologne prosecutors said.

The number of mostly-female victims stood at 739. In some cases several victims had filed a single criminal complaint between them.

Cologne police - who have been harshly criticised for failing to stop the chaos and are yet to make any arrests - have offered rewards of €10 000 ($10 800) for information leading to the capture of assailants.


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