COLOGNE, Germany, At least six Pakistani nationals were attacked by a group of about 20 men in Cologne, Germany, the site of mob assaults on New Year’s Eve, police said.
Two suspects were detained after the Sunday afternoon attack in Cologne’s city center and two victims were hospitalized, according to police. Several hours later a Syrian national, 39, was similarly assaulted by a group of five people.
The incidents come after 516 reports of theft and sexual assault at the city’s public New Year’s Eve celebration. Women reported they were groped, robbed and raped by groups of men speaking neither German nor English who appeared to be from North Africa or the Middle East. Of the 31 people charged, 18 are identified as seekers of asylum in Germany. Police Chief Wolfgang Albers was fired Friday over his department’s handling of the New Year’s Eve assaults, and Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker has come under criticism for suggesting women at the events could have done more to protect themselves.
The incidents Sunday followed organized protest marches in Cologne on Saturday by groups opposing immigration from Muslim countries. They threw beer bottles, stones and firecrackers at riot police, who responded with water cannon and tear gas. Police said they were tipped off that groups “specifically looking for provocation” would be in Cologne’s Altstadt, or old town, area on Sunday afternoon.
The New Year’s Eve assaults on young women have led to criticism of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy of welcoming refugees from the Middle East and North Africa. Germany received more than one million refugees in 2015.
By Ed Adamczyk