Mass Sexual Assaults, Muggings Shock Germany

A rash of sexual assaults in the city of Cologne have shocked Germany as a whole, and police have cautioned residents to avoid casting “blanket suspicion” on people who look like the suspects, according to Reuters.

According to reports from BBC News and other agencies, approximately 1,000 “drunk and aggressive young men” of Arabic or North African appearance were involved in the crimes in Cologne, which German chancellor Angela Merkel labelled “disgusting” and police chief Wolfgang Albers said was “a completely new dimension of crime.” Some 90 women have reported being threatened, robbed, or molested during the New Year’s Eve spree, while at least one woman reported being raped, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Reports also indicate that women were also targeted in Hamburg, although the crimes in Cologne were deemed to be quite serious. Regardless, the assaults have shocked both Germany and the global community as a whole. While police officials have cautioned against harboring suspicion against anyone who might be of Arabic or North African descent – similar to what the influx of Syrian refugees might appear like – right wing groups have renewed their calls for Germany to stop bringing in large numbers of migrants.

Germany has allowed the immigration of over a million migrants to date, which represents the largest number out of any of the European communities. Justice Minister Heiko Maas said that “all the perpetrators must be investigated and brought to justice. We will not accept these cowardly and abhorrent attacks.”

Roland Schaefer, head of Germany’s association of towns and localities, said the assaults that have shocked Germany really encourage xenophobic attitudes, but Cologne mayor Henriette Reker, who was stabbed in the neck and seriously injured in October just a day before winning her current position, echoed the authorities’ sentiment that blanketing the same group with suspicion might be hazardous.

Reuters reports that Reker said it was “unbelievable and intolerable what happened on New Year’s Eve” and argued that there was no reason to believe that refugees – or at least a group of them – would be responsible for the assaults that shocked Germany.

CNN reported that one of the victims who suffered in the assaults that shocked Germany was stunned at how shorthanded the police were during the crisis. She was unable to successfully fight off her assailant.

“But there were so many people around me that there was no control. There was no way out. There was no way to protect yourself,” she said. “We ran to the police. But we saw the police were so understaffed. They couldn’t take care of us and we as women suffered the price.”

To date, police have only the description of the appearance of the attackers to go on. In addition, there is a great deal of cell phone footage that came from that evening that the authorities need to sift through before any charges are laid as a result of the assaults that shocked Germany.

Justice Minister Maas also appeared to address the comments from the right that seemed to suggest the blame for the assaults and muggings lay at the feet of a group of refugees.

“Making this an issue through over-simplifications, and connecting it to the issue of refugees is nothing more than misuse of the debate. Now it is about determining the facts and drawing the necessary conclusions,” he said.

A member of Merkel’s own Christian Democratic Union spoke out for the need for Germany to tighten its borders and have stricter controls over the influx of refugees. Steffen Bilger tweeted that the assaults demonstrated that Germany should reconsider its “migrant intake, secure its borders, intensify deportations and uphold ‘consistent justice.'”

The assaults that shocked Germany seem to mostly have been sexual in nature, although a good deal of complaints that have been filed indicated muggings and threats also occurred.

[Photo by Roberto Pfeil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]