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Cologne Attacks: People Take to the Streets As Numbers of Sexual Assault Cases Climb To 500

( [email protected] ) Jan 13, 2016 08:20 PM EST
Protests erupt as alleged sexual assault cases that took place on New Year's Eve in Cologne, Germany, have risen from 379 to 500.
Pegida protesters at Saturday's protests in Cologne. Reuters

Riot police used water cannons on anti-migrant protesters last Saturday in Cologne, according to the BBC.

Asylum seekers and illegal immigrants are being blamed for the sexual assaults and robberies on women that took place en masse in that city on New Year's Eve. The numbers of alleged assaults have since jumped from 379 to 516, 40 percent related to sexual assault and committed by migrants, police say.

In Cologne, attacks occurred where 1,000 people, mainly men, congregated at Cologne's main train station before breaking into small groups that led to the molestation and robbery of the women there.

Similar crimes also on New Year's Eve took place in Stuttgart and Hamburg. The BBC reported that hundreds of men tried to force their way into nightclubs in Bielefeld. The increase in the number of assaults comes as authorities were compelled to investigate whether the crime sprees are linked.

Assist News quoted The Bild newspaper's report that German Justice Minister, Heiko Mass, said he was convinced the gathering was pre-arranged. "If such a horde gathers in order to commit crimes, that appears in some form to be planned," he said. "Nobody can tell me that this was not co-ordinated or prepared."

Angela Merkel has come under fire for her open door policy of having welcomed 1.1 million Syrian refugees last year. The protests erupted as she has proposed changes that would make it easier to deport asylum seekers who commit crimes.

The BBC reports that the police in Cologne were also criticized for their handling of the situation. The Chief of Police, Wolfgang Albers, of North-Rhine Westphalia, has since been suspended for withholding information about the attacks in Cologne, specifically about the origin of the suspects.  Victims described chaos in the midst of the attacks on a seeming lack of response from police.  

Police say the majority of the suspects are comprised of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants. Although police now investigating the attacks will be focusing their attention on suspects of North African origin, the full extent of the backgrounds is still not known.