New Year's Eve Assaults Renew German Tensions Over Migrants : Parallels Police in Cologne are investigating reports of sexual assaults that occurred during New Year's Eve celebrations. Thousands were packed into the city's main square when the attacks occurred.

New Year's Eve Assaults Renew German Tensions Over Migrants

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Nearly a hundred women say they were sexually assaulted during New Year's Eve celebrations in Cologne, Germany. The city's police chief has been criticized for the slow response of his officers and for linking the assaults to Germany's influx of migrants. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson sent this report from Berlin.


SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: The sexual assaults in Cologne happened during a raucous New Year's Eve celebration in the area between the city's historic cathedral and main train station, as captured here on this video. City police say about a thousand men between the ages of 18 and 35 were in the square that night, many of them drunk and shooting fireworks.


WOLFGANG ALBERS: (Speaking German).

NELSON: Cologne police chief Wolfgang Albers says his officers broke up the unruly crowd of men he described as Arab or North African in origin. He says police didn't learn of the sexual assaults until the next day. So far, 90 victims have stepped forward to file reports of being attacked and mugged that night. One victim was interviewed by German channel NTV, which identified her only by her first name, Michelle.


MICHELLE: (Speaking German).

NELSON: She says dozens of men surrounded her and her female friends, touching them everywhere and stealing her cell phone and another woman's wallet.


ALBERS: (Speaking German).

NELSON: Police Chief Albers says investigators haven't arrested anyone yet but that migrants who commit serious crimes should be deported. Cologne mayor Henriette Reker, however, warns against drawing any hasty conclusions.


HENRIETTE REKER: (Speaking German).

NELSON: She told reporters it is absolutely improper to link the attacks to refugees living in Cologne simply because the perpetrators are said to look North African. And Chancellor Angela Merkel demanded the attackers be swiftly brought to justice regardless of their origin or background. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin.

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