Germany: Pakistanis, Syrian attacked in Cologne amid tension

Germany: Pakistanis, Syrian attacked in Cologne amid tension
A group of Pakistanis and a Syrian were attacked in Cologne amid tensions over New Year's Eve assaults in the city that have been blamed largely on foreigners, police said today.

Six Pakistani nationals were attacked yesterday by around 20 people and two of them were briefly admitted to a hospital, police said. Also last evening, a Syrian man was attacked by five people. He was injured but didn't need treatment.

Police said they received tips yesterday afternoon about groups of people who would "seek provocation," but were still investigating whether the subsequent attacks were racially motivated and whether there was any link to the New Year's assaults.

Those assaults have stoked tensions over Germany's open-door policy to refugees and prompted politicians to call for tougher laws against migrants who commit crimes.

"As abominable as the crimes in Cologne and other cities were, one thing remains clear: there is no justification for blanket agitation against foreigners," Justice Minister Heiko Maas said, adding that some people "appear just to have been waiting for the events of Cologne."

Authorities and witnesses said the New Year's Eve attackers were among a group of about a thousand people, described as predominantly Arab and North African men, who gathered at Cologne's central train station.

Some broke off into small groups and groped and robbed women, police said. Cologne police say 516 criminal complaints have now been filed with them in connection to the New Year's attacks. About 40 percent involve allegations of sexual offenses.

Cologne's police drew criticism both for their response and for their slowness to release information on what had happened. Police chief Wolfgang Albers was dismissed Friday by North Rhine-Westphalia state's interior minister, Ralf Jaeger.

At a session today of the state legislature's home affairs committee, Jaeger said Cologne police hadn't called in reinforcements who were offered, news agency dpa reported. Jaeger said that witness and police reports "indicate that it was almost exclusively people with an immigrant background who committed these crimes."

He cautioned that it's unclear how many people authorities will succeed in convicting. "It would be dishonest toward the women who were victims of these groups of men to awaken false hopes here," he said.

In a separate incident, police said yesterday two migrants, a Syrian and an Afghan, were arrested in northern Germany on suspicion of attacking and robbing a French man who was wearing a Jewish skullcap at the Puttgarden ferry port. The incident happened on Saturday, and the two men had been denied entry to Denmark the previous day.

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