Unhappy new year

German minister believes NYE assaults were coordinated, as number of cases rises to 516

People take part in a demonstration against violence against women in Cologne, Germany. (ROBERTO PFEIL/AFP/Getty Images)

The number of violent and sexual attacks against women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, which have largely been blamed on foreigners and asylum seekers, rose to 516 on Sunday, with more evidence surfacing that police were completely overwhelmed. There appear to have been some 1000 attackers. Forty percent of the reported cases involved sexual assault, including at least two reports of rape. Police have detained 31 people for questioning so far — 18 of them asylum seekers but also two Germans and an American — though none have been specifically accused of committing sexual assaults. In the meantime, German Justice minister Heiko Maas has said he believes the attacks might have been coordinated with assaults in Hamburg and other places. “If such a horde gathers in order to commit crimes, that appears in some form to be planned,” the minister told Bild. “Nobody can tell me that this was not coordinated or prepared.” On Sunday afternoon, groups of women gathered on the steps of the Cathedral to protest what they called the utter incompetence of the police. The attacks could spell a tipping point for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s controversial open-door policy for refugees. She has adopted a harsher tone in recent days, saying she would speed up the expulsion of criminal asylum-seekers and promising to reduce the number of refugees coming in over the next 12 months.

Read the full story at The Guardian and The Independent.

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