Ger­man govern­ment de­nounces re­tal­ia­tory at­tacks

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS TER­ROR

A string of at­tacks on women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve blamed largely on for­eign­ers was “in­tol­er­a­ble,’’ Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s spokesman said Mon­day, but added noth­ing ex­cuses re­tal­ia­tory as­saults on im­mi­grants.

Merkel has pro­posed mak­ing it eas­ier to de­port im­mi­grants in­volved in crimes, and her spokesman St­ef­fen Seibert em­pha­sized the govern­ment is look­ing into both “pos­si­ble con­se­quences for crim­i­nal law (and) pos­si­ble political con­se­quences for the in­tol­er­a­ble crimes.’’

But af­ter Cologne po­lice said a group of Pak­ista­nis and a Syr­ian were at­tacked in the city on Sun­day, Seibert said Ger­mans must not blame all the nearly 1.1 mil­lion mi­grants who en­tered the coun­try last year, and said the govern­ment is also fo­cused on their wel­fare.

“We’re do­ing all of th­ese things to pro­tect the pop­u­la­tion in Ger­many,’’ he said. “We are also do­ing this for the great ma­jor­ity of in­no­cent refugees who have sought refuge from bombs and war in our coun­try, and who should get this pro­tec­tion and who are pre­pared to adapt to the rules and val­ues in our coun­try.’’

The six Pak­istani na­tion­als were at­tacked Sun­day by around 20 peo­ple, and two of them were briefly ad­mit­ted to a hos­pi­tal, po­lice said. Also Sun­day evening, five peo­ple at­tacked a Syr­ian man, who was in­jured but didn’t need treat­ment.

Po­lice of­fi­cial Nor­bert Wag­ner said au­thor­i­ties are treat­ing those at­tacks as anti-for­eigner crimes and be­lieve the as­sailants ar­ranged to meet via so­cial me­dia, news agency dpa re­ported.

The New Year’s Eve as­saults stoked ten­sions over Ger­many’s open-door pol­icy to refugees and prompted politi­cians to call for tougher laws against 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.’’

In the east­ern city of Leipzig on Mon­day night, sup­port­ers of the anti-Is­lamic PEGIDA move­ment demon­strated, car­ry­ing signs with slo­gans like “RAPEfugees not wel­come’’ and “Free­dom for Ger­many.’’

Counter-demon­stra­tors, led by Mayor Burkhard Jung, car­ried a ban­ner say­ing “Wel­come in Leipzig’’ and plac­ards say­ing “No PEGIDA.’’

Po­lice re­fused to give a crowd es­ti­mate but wit­nesses said about 2,000 peo­ple were on hand for ei­ther side.

Au­thor­i­ties and wit­nesses said the New Year’s Eve at­tack­ers

mi­grants were among a group of about 1,000 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.

Maas has said Ger­man au­thor­i­ties need to quickly de­ter­mine whether the as­saults were co-or­di­nated or were linked to sim­i­lar of­fences in other cities in­clud­ing Ham­burg. In­ci­dents also were re­ported in Swe­den and Fin­land.

North Rhine-West­phalia state po­lice told law­mak­ers Mon­day, how­ever, that so far their in­ves­ti­ga­tion had found no in­di­ca­tion the Cologne at­tacks were co-or­di­nated, or linked to oth­ers, dpa re­ported.

Cologne po­lice say 516 crim­i­nal com­plaints have now been filed with them in con­nec­tion to the New Year’s at­tacks. About 40 per cent in­volve al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual of­fences.


Po­lice drive back right-wing demon­stra­tors us­ing a wa­ter cannon dur­ing protests in Cologne, Ger­many, Satur­day.

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