Crisis talks in Cologne after mass sexual assaults on New Year's Eve

Cologne's mayor and police will conduct crisis talks Tuesday to respond to a wave of sexual assaults around the city's main train station and its famed cathedral on New Year's Eve that have shocked and alarmed German authorities and the public.

Mayor Henriette Reker - who made international headlines in October for being stabbed on the campaign trail due to her pro-refugee stance - will meet with local and federal police to discuss the mass assaults.

Officers received 60 sexual assault complaints and one allegation of rape.

The victims said the perpetrators came from a group of roughly 1,000 men idling near the main train station who looked as if they were of "Arab or North African descent," police chief Wolfgang Albers said Monday.

The victims reported that the men had been operating in small groups of around five, singling out the women and forming a circle around them in order to sexually assault them and steal their belongings.

The police expect more victims to come forward in the coming days.

Five men were arrested on the scene on Friday. Police investigations are ongoing.

The incident plays into widespread fears in Germany about the mass influx of refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and beyond.

Ahead of Tuesday's talks, a spokesman for the mayor told dpa that the city government would not allow the creation of so-called "lawless zones," a widespread buzzword used the German media to describe areas with insufficient police presence.

Spokesman Gregor Timmer said that the mayor planned to come up with a plan on how to ensure security at the upcoming Cologne Carnival, which attracts more than a million visitors each year.

Police and politicians have warned that right-wing populist groups may be using reports of the crimes to stir up anti-refugee sentiment.

Last update: Tue, 05/01/2016 - 13:50
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