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Germany: Pakistanis, Syrian attacked in Cologne amid tension

Demonstrators protest against racism and sexism in the wake of the sexual assaults on New Year's Eve, in front of the main station in Cologne, Germany, Saturday Jan. 9, 2016. After the sexual assaults around Cologne's main station on New Year's Eve, various groups have called for demonstrations on Saturday.  

A group of Pakistanis and a Syrian were attacked in Cologne amid tensions over New Year’s Eve assaults in the city that have been blamed largely on foreigners, police said on Monday.

Six Pakistani nationals were attacked on Sunday by around 20 people and two of them were briefly admitted to a hospital, police said. Also on Sunday evening, a Syrian man was attacked by five people. He was injured but didn’t need treatment.

Police said they received tips on Sunday afternoon about groups of people who would “seek provocation,” but were still investigating whether the subsequent attacks were racially motivated and whether there was any link to the New Year’s assaults.

Those assaults have stoked tensions over Germany’s open-door policy to refugees and prompted politicians to call for tougher laws against migrants who commit crimes.

“As abominable as the crimes in Cologne and other cities were, one thing remains clear- there is no justification for blanket agitation against foreigners,” Justice Minister Heiko Maas said, adding that some people “appear just to have been waiting for the events of Cologne.”

Authorities and witnesses said the New Year’s Eve attackers were among a group of about a thousand people, described as predominantly Arab and North African men, who gathered at Cologne’s central train station. Some broke off into small groups and groped and robbed women, police said.

Cologne police say 516 criminal complaints have now been filed with them in connection to the New Year’s attacks. About 40 per cent involve allegations of sexual offenses.

Cologne’s police drew criticism both for their response and for their slowness to release information on what had happened. Police chief Wolfgang Albers was dismissed on Friday by North Rhine—Westphalia state’s Interior Minister, Ralf Jaeger.

At a session on Monday of the state legislature’s home affairs committee, Mr. Jaeger said Cologne police hadn’t called in reinforcements who were offered, news agency dpa reported.

Mr. Jaeger said that witness and police reports “indicate that it was almost exclusively people with an immigrant background who committed these crimes.”

In a separate incident, police said on Sunday two migrants a Syrian and an Afghan were arrested in northern Germany on suspicion of attacking and robbing a French man who was wearing a Jewish skullcap at the Puttgarden ferry port. The incident happened on Saturday, and the two men had been denied entry to Denmark the previous day.


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