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Robberies, sex assaults rock Germany on New Year's Eve
02:31 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Men behind mob sex attacks in Cologne, Germany, could face deportation, justice minister says

More than 121 criminal complaints have been filed relating to the assaults on New Year's Eve

The victims said the assailants were gangs of men who appeared to be Arab or North African

Berlin CNN  — 

Similar attacks were reported in Hamburg on New Year’s Eve, with 39 reported sexual assaults and 14 robberies, according to police in the city, while police in Stuttgart said two women had reported their phones were missing after they were assaulted by a group of men of Arab appearance during New Year’s festivities there.

Germany has been shocked by the apparently coordinated crime wave in the center of the city in western Germany on New Year’s Eve, in which scores of women reported being sexually assaulted or robbed by gangs of men of Arab or North African appearance.

Cologne police spokeswoman Stefanie Becker told CNN on Thursday that more than 121 criminal complaints have been filed relating to the mass assaults, including two accounts of rape, while 16 suspects have been identified but not charged.

Spiegel: ‘Run the gauntlet’

That night, police kept encountering women and girls in tears, German news organization Spiegel Online reported, citing an internal federal police report.

“Women in company or who were on their own had to run the gauntlet through an inebriated mass of men,” the police report read.

Groups of men prevented police from reaching people crying out for help, Spiegel Online said. Men molesting women threatened anyone who might try to identify them.

Similar attacks

Similar attacks were reported in other German cities on New Year’s Eve, with more than 50 similar incidents reported in the northern city of Hamburg.

The attacks have sparked outrage in Germany, prompting angry protests and fueling public debate about the wisdom of Germany’s welcoming stance to migrants.

Police have not confirmed to CNN whether the suspects identified so far are asylum seekers, and government officials have warned against scapegoating migrants.

But German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said Thursday that people found guilty could be deported if they were seeking asylum.

“The law allows for people to be deported during asylum proceedings if they’re sentenced to a year or more in prison, and that’s possible with sexual offenses,” he said.

Read more: Reports of New Year’s Eve sex assaults in Cologne fuel German migrant debate

Mayor’s comments slammed

She reiterated her advice at an appearance on German public service broadcaster ZDF’s “Heute Journal” program Tuesday, when she said: “Women would also be smart not to go and embrace everyone that you meet and who seems to be nice. Such offers could be misunderstood, and that is something every woman and every girl should protect herself from.”

A woman holds a sign during a demonstration in Cologne after a wave of attacks on women over New Year's Eve.

“Of course after what happened, there are several very serious questions which go beyond Cologne. Are there connections or collective patterns? Are there elements of condemnation of women?” she said.