Sunday

24th Mar 2019

Revenge attacks in Cologne, alleged cover-ups in Sweden

  • Reports of sexual assault by migrants at a festival in Stockholm were allegedly kept in the dark by police (Photo: atranswe)

Gangs attacked groups of foreigners in Cologne on Sunday (10 January), in what looks like revenge for New Year’s Eve. Meanwhile, police in Sweden are accused of covering up sexual assaults by mostly migrant youths at a festival.

On Monday (11 January), Cologne police said that the victims were a group of Pakistanis, two Syrians and a group of Africans in four separate incidents. Two were taken to hospital.

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A group of around 20 attacked Pakistani people near the Cologne railway station, and, later, a group of five assaulted a Syrian man.

No arrests have been made, according to Reuters.

The attacks came after dozens of complaints of sexual assault during the city's New Year's Eve celebrations, perpetrated, reportedly, mostly by men of north African or Arab origin.

The revenge attackers were members of gangs who arranged on Facebook to meet in downtown Cologne to start a “manhunt” for foreigners, the local Express newspaper says.

Vigilante groups are also being organised on social media in Duesseldorf and Stuttgart to patrol the streets. The groups say they are coordinating with police.

But the police have expressed concern, with a police spokeswoman saying “the monopoly of power clearly lies with the state”.

At an extraordinary meeting on Monday of the internal affairs committee of North Rhine-Westphalia's state parliament, where Cologne lies, the ministry said 516 criminal complaints relating to New Year’s Eve had been registered, 237 of which were of a sexual nature.

A total of 19 suspects have been identified, all foreigners.

Interior minister Ralf Jaeger spoke of “serious failures” by the police, who were significantly outnumbered.

He also criticised them for refusing to communicate that the majority of the perpetrators had a migrant background, blaming this on misguided “political correctness”.

“Those people who make a direct link between immigration and violence are playing into the hands of right-wing extremists,” he said, according to Reuters.

Swedish case

The attacks in Germany came as police in Stockholm launched an investigation into allegations they covered up sexual assaults on women by mostly migrant attackers at a music festival in 2014 and 2015.

In a case from 2015, a group of men reportedly groped girls at the We Are Sthlm event, but police failed to mention the assaults.

The patterns were reportedly the same as in Cologne, with large groups of young men surrounding girls and molesting them.

Police ejected a total of 200 people from the event in August, which was attended by more than 170,000 people.

According to Roger Ticoalu, head of events at the Stockholm city administration, there were 20 reports of assault or harassment at the festival in 2015.

The incident came to light in an internal police memo leaked to Dagens Nyheter newspaper, which has also been accused of trying to cover up the attacks.

Its editor denied the cover-up, saying in a blog post that they got a tip-off but could not confirm it.

Bad PR

Peter Agren, in charge of police operations at the festival, told the paper that the controversy over welcoming refugees and migrants to the country may have contributed to a reluctance to publicise the issue.

“Sometimes we do not really say how things are because we believe it may play into the hands of the Sweden Democrats,” he said, referring to Sweden's far-right anti-immigration party.

Stefan Lofven, Sweden's centre-left prime minister, called the incident "a double betrayal" for the women assaulted.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, warned that politicians should not use the “shocking” attacks on women in Cologne and other German cities on New Year's Eve to push their own agendas.

She said violence against women was not brought to Europe by migrants and that there "are good people and bad people, no matter what nationality, what background they have,” she said in Prague.

Cologne attacks put Merkel under pressure

German leader cancels trip to Davos after a weekend which saw far-right protesters clash with police and amid hundreds of criminal complaints over New Year's Eve sex assaults.

Merkel: Sexual assaults raise 'serious questions'

The German chancellor has said "the fundamentals of cultural co-existence" must be discussed, as more cases of assault by alleged migrants are reported in Cologne and other European cities.

Syrians tell Cologne: 'We're against sexism'

Syrians and Germans held a protest on Saturday to show their aversion to sexism, but also to racism. “We experience sexism from men of all nationalities," one woman said.

Centre-right EPP faces showdown with Orban

The EU's largest political alliance, the EPP, will try to put the 'Orban issue' behind it going into the European election campaign. Hungary's ruling party, Fidesz, could be expelled or suspended from the political family.

EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance

Germany and Belgium have put forward a proposal for a "peer review" of EU countries' legal systems as member states and EU institutions struggle with disciplining member states that break EU rules.

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