Cologne’s police chief has been removed amid criticism of his force’s handling of a string of New Year’s Eve assaults and robberies.
Cologne police said Wolfgang Albers is being sent into early retirement by the state government.
They said North Rhine-Westphalia’s governing cabinet will formally discuss the decision on Tuesday but Albers will not return to his job.
Albers had faced mounting criticism for the police’s handling of last week’s events and the fallout.
Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker suggested yesterday that police had held back information from her, and said in a statement that her “trust in the Cologne police leadership is significantly shaken”.
Police identified 18 asylum seekers among 31 suspects in connection with robberies and assaults committed in Cologne at New Year.
They were detained by police on suspicion of committing crimes ranging from theft to assault, and in one case verbal abuse of a sexual nature, interior ministry spokesman Tobias Plate told reporters in Berlin.
They were believed to be among a group of up to 1,000 people in front of Cologne’s main railway station on New Year’s Eve.
None of the 31 is currently suspected of committing sexual assaults of the kind that have prompted outrage in Germany over the past week.
Plate said the suspects were nine Algerians, eight Moroccans, five Iranians, four Syrians, two Germans and one person each from Iraq, Serbia and the United States.
Cologne police said they have received a total of 170 criminal complaints related to New Year, including 120 of a sexual nature.
In addition to the 31 suspects detained by federal officers, city police arrested two men from North Africa, aged 16 and 23.
The Daily Telegraph said police arrested two men “of an immigrant background” regarding the sex attacks.
One was carrying a note in German and Arabic with translations of phrases including “Beautiful breasts”, “I want to have sex with you” and “I’ll kill you”, according to police.
Police said the attacks on women were committed by small groups of men who were among some 1,000 people described as being of “Arab or North African origin” that had mingled with revellers in front of Cologne’s main train station and Gothic cathedral.
The incident has triggered calls for tighter immigration laws, particularly from politicians opposed to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy that allowed nearly 1.1m refugees to enter the country last year.
Government spokesman Georg Streiter said the chancellor wants “the whole truth” about the incidents in Cologne and “nothing should be held back and nothing should be glossed over”.
Swedish police said at least 15 young women reported being groped by groups of men on New Year’s Eve in the city of Kalmar.
Finnish police reported a high level of sexual harassment in Helsinki on New Year’s Eve and said they had been tipped off about plans by groups of asylum seekers to sexually harass women.
Helsinki deputy police chief Ilkka Koskimaki said : “This is a completely new phenomenon in Helsinki.”
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