100+ women sexually assaulted in German city on New Year’s Eve, refugee debate continues

A German Police car patrols in Cologne. Photo from NBC News.

BERLIN (AP) – Germany’s top security official is stressing that anyone involved in New Year’s Eve assaults and robberies in Cologne must be punished regardless of where they come from, and says that if refugees were involved it must be addressed openly.

Events in Cologne, involving a crowd of a thousand men described as being of Arab or North African origin, have shaken Germany and added fuel to debate about its ability to integrate large numbers of migrants.

At least 106 women have come forward to file criminal complaints of sexual assault and robbery during the New Year’s Eve festivities, authorities said, including two accounts of rape.

They say some men in the crowd formed smaller groups and surrounded women.

“This is where Merkel’s irresponsible immigration policy will lead us,” declared Thorsten Craemer of the far-right fringe party ProNRW, which staged a small rally in front of Cologne’s main train station, the site of the attacks. “There will be battles for resources, confrontations far worse than what we’ve experienced on New Year’s Eve.”

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told Wednesday’s edition of the Bild daily: “All of the perpetrators, of whatever origin, must be punished. If refugees were among them, we must address that openly.”

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas called for the perpetrators to be held to account, saying the attacks were “cowardly and vile.”

Green Party lawmaker Claudia Roth warned against blaming refugees for the assaults, which police say witnesses described as being committed by men of “Arab or North African origin.”

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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