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Immigration and Sex Crimes : German police chief sacked over sexual assaults

The police chief of the German city of Cologne has been dismissed amid mounting criticism of his force's handling of New Year's Eve sexual assaults and robberies. 

The state government of North Rhine-Westphalia said on Friday it was sending Wolfgang Albers into early retirement, and the 60-year-old commander said he understood the reasons why.

Many of the crimes have been blamed on foreigners in the country, which last year accepted about 1.1 million refugees - more than any other European nation.

But none of the 31 suspects has been accused of specifically committing sexual assaults, the aspect of Cologne's disturbances that attracted most public outrage at home and abroad.

Cologne police say they have received 170 criminal complaints connected to the New Year's festivities, 120 of them sexual in nature.

The German government said 31 suspects were briefly detained for questioning after the New Year's Eve trouble, among them 18 asylum seekers.

They include nine Algerians, eight Moroccans, five Iranians, four Syrians, two Germans and one person each from Iraq, Serbia and the US.

Assaults in Germany heighten anti-immigrant sentiment

The state's interior minister, Ralf Jaeger, said police chief Albers' removal was "necessary to restore public trust and the Cologne police's ability to act with a view to upcoming major events." Cologne's annual Carnival is next month.

Albers had faced mounting criticism for the police response to New Year's Eve attacks on women by groups of men within a 1,000-strong crowd described by police as predominantly Arab or North African in origin.

Reports of the harassment have fuelled calls for tighter immigration laws.

Government spokesman Georg Streiter said trouble in Cologne "doesn't just harm our rule of law but also the great majority of completely innocent refugees who have sought protection."

Police failed to mention the attacks around Cologne's main train station in their initial morning report on New Year's Day, describing overnight festivities as "largely peaceful".

Albers acknowledged that mistake earlier this week, but he dismissed widespread criticism that his officers reacted too slowly in response to reports of assaults and harassment of women.

However, an internal police report published in German media on Thursday characterised Cologne's police as overwhelmed and described how women were forced to run through gauntlets of drunken men outside the station.

Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker suggested on Friday that police had withheld information from her, including on the origin of suspects. She said that her "trust in the Cologne police leadership is significantly shaken".

Earlier, Germany's interior ministry said federal police had detained 31 men on suspicion of committing crimes including theft, assault and, in one case, verbal abuse of a sexual nature.

Assaults elsewhere

Police in other European nations reported other cases in public places.

In Sweden, police said at least 15 young women reported being groped by groups of men on New Year's Eve in the city of Kalmar.

Johan Bruun, police spokesman, said two men, both asylum seekers, have been told via interpreter that they are suspected of committing sexual assaults. He said police are trying to identify other suspects.

In Finland, police said they received tip-offs on New Year's Eve that about 1,000 predominantly Iraqi asylum seekers were intending to gather near the main railway station in Helsinki and harass passing women.

Police there said they received three complaints of harassment and detained several asylum seekers at the scene for alleged inappropriate behaviour.


Cologne sex attacks: City's police chief removed from post over violence

Police have been heavily criticised after apparent cover-up over immigrant background of suspects involved in New Year's violence.

(Left), Police arrest men around the main train station in Cologne. (Right), A note found by police on two suspects. Photo: Warren Allott/The Telegraph
The Cologne police chief was removed from his post on Friday amid growing public anger at his handling of the sex attacks in the city on New Year’s Eve.
Wolfang Albers was told he was being suspended from duty as allegations continue to mount of a police cover-up of asylum-seekers’ involvement in the attacks.
Ralf Jäger,the interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia state, said his decision to suspend Mr Albers was “necessary to regain the public’s trust”.
“The Cologne police now have the vital task of investigating the events of New Year’s Eve. People rightly want to know what happened, who the perpatrators were and how such incidents can be prevents in the future,” Mr Jäger said.
Mr Albers said he accepted the minister’s decision.“It’s part of my job to take responsibility in difficult time,” he said. “The facts need to be thoroughly reviewed. The public debate about my person can only obstruct and delay this important work.”
The suspended police chief has been accused of seeking to downplay the scale of the attacks after his force issued a press release claiming New Year’s Eve was “peaceful” in Cologne.
In fact, police officers had been outnumbered as a crowd of some 1,000 men took over the area around the main station and sexually assaulted scores of women.
More than 170 women have now filed criminal complaints over the incidents, 113 of them for sexual assaults.
Mr Albers has also come under fire after it emerged on Friday that police in nearby Dusiburg had offered to send reinforcements to help get the situation under control on New Year’s Eve but the Cologne police turned the offer down.
There have been allegations of a cover-up after Mr Albers repeatedly claimed police did not know whether asylum-seekers were among those responsible for the attacks.
Internal police reports leaked to the German press suggest officers were aware many of those involved were asylum-seekers.
Police questioned 71 suspects on New Year’s Eve, most of whom showed papers identifying them as asylum-seekers, according to an incident report leaked to several newspaper.
Two suspects were arrested outside the main station and briefly held in connection with the attacks on Friday but later released for lack of evidence.
They were named by Spiegel magazine as Issam D, 16, from Morocco, and Mohammed T, 23, from Tunisia.
Prosecutors refused to comment on allegations that one of them was carrying a handwritten crib sheet with phrases in German and Arabic, including “Great breasts”, “I want to f*** you” and “I’ll kill you”.
Police denied reports that video footage of assaults on women was found on their mobile phones.
It was officially confirmed for the first time on Friday that asylum-seekers are among suspects wanted in connection with the New Year’s Eve violence.
Federal police have identified 31 suspects by name, of whom 18 are asylum-seekers, the German interior ministry said on Friday. They are not suspected of sexual assault, but of physical violence and theft.
The federal police are responsible for area inside the main station but not the side streets where the worst attacks took place. They are carrying out their own investigation in parallel with the Cologne force.
Reports of similar sexual assaults on women during New Year’s Eve celebrations are emerging across northern Europe.
In Finland, three asylum-seekers have been arrested over incidents in the capital, Helsinki. Police said they had received information that groups of asylum-seekers planned to harass women in the city.
“This is a completely new phenomenon in Helsinki,” lkka Koskimaki, the deputy police chief, said.
In Sweden, 15 women reported being sexually assaulted in the city of Kalmar on New Year’s Eve. Two asylum-seekers have been arrested in connection with the assaults.
In Switzerland, police in Zurich said six women reported being sexually assaulted and robbed in cases “a little similar” to those in Germany.
There have been reports of similar attacks in cities across Germany and in neighbouring Austria.

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