About 90 women have reported being robbed, threatened or sexually molested at the New Year’s celebrations outside Cologne’s cathedral by young, mostly drunk, men, police said. One woman said she was raped.
Police and witnesses have said about 1,000 men, split into groups, attacked women in the square.
Some witnesses said the men were of North African appearance, stirring strong emotions in Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel has welcomed people fleeing war zones in the Middle East and Africa.
While politicians urged people not to place refugees under blanket suspicion, the incident, described by Cologne police as a “new dimension of crime”, fuelled calls from right-wing groups to halt admissions of migrants.
Germany took in just over a million last year.
Witnesses and women who reported being attacked described the men as looking as if they were from “the Arab or North African region”, said police chief Wolfgang Albers, who added that they were mostly between 18 and 35 years old.
Cologne mayor Henriette Reker said there was no reason to believe that people involved in the attacks were refugees.
“We will not accept the disgusting attacks on women.
"All perpetrators must be held to account,” said Justice Minister Heiko Maas
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