Security authorities are growing increasingly concerned by the rising number of sex attacks by gangs of migrants which appear to be spreading across Europe.
Finland and Sweden today became the latest European countries to issue warnings to women to be wary of the threat of sex attacks following fresh reports of sexual assaults in the last week, while the Viennese police chief adviced women not to go outside alone in Vienna.
The warnings come as reports emerged that Austrian and German police tried to cover-up the issue over fears of reprisal attacks on asylum seekers and damage to the countries’ tourist trade.
Dozens of arrests have been made today in connection with the wave of recent sex attacks across Europe.
Finnish police said today that they had been tipped off about plans by groups of asylum seekers to sexually harass women following an unusually high level of sexual harassment cases in Helsinki.
‘There hasn’t been this kind of harassment on previous New Year’s Eves or other occasions for that matter… This is a completely new phenomenon in Helsinki,’ said deputy police chief Ilkka Koskimaki.
Police in Germany are investigating more than 150 cases across five German cities where women have been attacked by the ‘organised Arab or North African gangs, police said.
Cologne has been at the centre of the problem with around 106 reported cases of assault by migrant gangs since New Year’s Eve.
Following criticism of the police’s handling of the violent clashes in Cologne, the police chief of Cologne has been relieved of his duties today.
Police chief Wolfgang Albers, 60, was informed by the state interior minister Ralf Jaeger that he would be given early retirement, a source told Reuters.
A chilling police report about the attacks in Cologne describes women being forced to run through a ‘gauntlet’ of drunken men while officers themselves were mobbed by victims claiming they had been sexually assaulted.
Two more victims from the night have spoken out today on German TV, after they were sexually assaulted and attacked with fireworks during the city’s New Year’s Eve celebrations.
One woman, known only as Jenny, suffered serious burns when a firework was shoved into the hood she was wearing.
‘I heard a sizzling sound in my hood,’ said Jenny. ‘I somehow tried to get the firecracker out of the hood. Then it fell into my jacket and burned everything.’
She added: ‘The scars will be permanent. I was lucky that it didn’t explode.’
One German gun-shop owner Katja Triebel revealed that sales in pepper spray had shot up since the vile attacks in Cologne.
Concerns remain that many of the men involved in the sickening assaults are still at large despite the best efforts by the police.
Taunted: Police have revealed how the violent crowd, which was ‘mainly’ made up of migrants, openly mocked them as they tried to regain control of Cologne city centre in the run up to midnight on New Year’s Eve
Further cases have emerged of identical sex attacks being reported in neighbouring Austria as well as Switzerland, where six women reported identical crimes in Zurich on New Year’s Eve.
Swedish police say at least 15 young women have reported being groped by groups of men on New Year’s Eve in the city of Kalmar.
Kalmar police spokesman Johan Bruun said today that groups of men encircled women on a crowded square and groped them on New Year’s Eve.
He said no one was physically injured but that many of those targeted were terrified.
He said two men, both asylum-seekers, were informed through interpreters that they’re suspected of sexual assault and that police are trying to identify other suspects.
When asked about similarities to the assaults in Germany, Bruun said: ‘We are aware of what happened in Germany but we are focusing our investigation on what happened in Kalmar.’
Bruun told MailOnline that that the gang ‘formed a rings around the girls and started molesting them.’
‘They grabbed their breasts and genitals. In some cases they tried to drag girls into a waiting car, but those girls escaped luckily,’ he revealed.
Groups of women were targeted as well as women who were on their own at the celebrations.
He also revealed that 11 incidents have been reported including claims from women who said they were molested inside nightclubs on the night.
‘This is something entirely new to us and has never happened before.
‘There were several groups of men that conducted these crimes and we are working very hard to find them. This is a serious crime and it is important for the citizens in Kalmar to feel safe on the streets,’ he said.
He confirmed that two men were arrested at the scene of the crime on New Years eve after they were pointed out by several women.
‘The sexual molestation continued after we arrested them and we know that there are many more perpetrators that we have yet to identify since they worked in big groups.
‘We have collected pictures and films from peoples mobile phones at the scene and will show pictures of the suspects to the victims.’
He revealed the arrested men did not speak English or Swedish and were carrying the identity cards that said that they were asylum seekers.
MUSLIMS LINKED TO ATTACKS IDENTIFIED BY GERMAN POLICE AMID ALLEGATIONS OF POLICE COVER UP
German police have identified 18 asylum seekers among 31 suspects in connection with robberies and assaults committed in Cologne at New Year.
They were detained by federal police on suspicion of committing crimes ranging from theft to assault, interior ministry spokesman Tobias Plate told reporters in Berlin.
They were believed to be among a group of up to 1,000 people in front of Cologne’s main railway station on Thursday evening.
None of the 31 is currently suspected of committing sexual assaults of the kind that have prompted outrage in Germany over the past week.
Mr Plate said the suspects were nine Algerians, eight Moroccans, five Iranians, four Syrians, two Germans and one person each from Iraq, Serbia and the United States.
Cologne police said they have received a total of 170 criminal complaints related to New Year, including 120 of a sexual nature. In addition to the 31 suspects detained by federal officers, city police arrested two men from North Africa, aged 16 and 23.
Austrian police have been accused of covering up the sex attacks by migrant gangs in Vienna.
Police have dismissed the claims, insisting they had held the information back ‘to protect the privacy of victims’.
News of the victims in Austria, which has included several arrests of migrants from Afghanistan and Syria, was revealed after women and girls said they suffered attacks from migrants and came forward to complain to local media.
One identified as Sabrina told Austrian newspaper Osterreich that she was still suffering from shock from her ordeal which happened when she was in a club in the centre of the Mozart city of Salzburg.
In Finland, security guards hired to patrol the city on New Year’s Eve told police there had been ‘widespread sexual harassment’ at a central square where around 20,000 people had gathered for celebrations.
Three sexual assaults allegedly took place at Helsinki’s central railway station on New Year’s Eve, where around 1,000 mostly Iraqi asylum seekers had converged.
‘Police have… received information about three cases of sexual assault, of which two have been filed as complaints,’ Helsinki police said in a statement.
‘The suspects were asylum seekers. The three were caught and taken into custody on the spot,’ Helsinki deputy police chief Ilkka Koskimaki told AFP.
Police said they had increased their preparedness ‘to an exceptional level’ in Helsinki for New Year’s Eve after being tipped off about possible problems.
‘Ahead of New Year’s Eve, the police caught wind of information that asylum seekers in the capital region possibly had similar plans to what the men gathered in Cologne’s railway station have been reported to have had,’ police said in a statement.
Dozens of apparently coordinated sexual assaults against women took place on New Year’s Eve in the western German city of Cologne.
Cologne police said they had received 120 criminal complaints and quoted witnesses as saying that groups of 20-30 young men ‘who appeared to be of Arab origin’ had surrounded victims, assaulted them and in several cases robbed them.
Despite the growing number of copy-cat attacks by migrants gangs, Helsinki’s deputy police chief said he did not think police believed there is a link between the Cologne and Helsinki incidents.
Shortly before New Year’s Eve, Finnish police also arrested six Iraqis at an asylum residency centre in Kirkkonummi, around 30 kilometres west of Helsinki, suspected of ‘publicly inciting criminal behaviour’. They were released on January 2.
According to Koskimaki, the arrests were linked to the information police received in the run-up to New Year’s Eve.
In November, Finnish authorities said around 10 asylum seekers were suspected of rapes, among the more than 1,000 rapes reported to police in 2015.
Vienna’s police chief has has caused outrage by advising women in the wake of sex attacks over New Year not to go out on the streets alone in Austria.
The astonishing claims by Gerhard Purstl were made as it was revealed Austria also had cases registered in which women claimed to have been sexually assaulted by men who were described by their victims as being immigrants.
In neighbouring Germany, more than 100 women have come forward to say they were assaulted over New Year by groups of men who were described in police protocols as being mostly nely-arrived asylum seekers.
In the wake of the scandal, Purstl was asked about the incidents and about the risk that women were in.
He then said: ‘Women should in general not go out on the streets at night alone, they should avoid suspicious looking areas and also when in pubs and clubs should only accept drinks from people they know.’
The statement immediately attracted criticism from the country’s Green party women’s affairs spokesman Berivan Aslan who said: ‘Should women now only go out with bodyguards if they want to avoid being told it was their fault when they get into difficulties?’
And the Green party security spokesman Peter Pilz said: ‘Is the Vienna police chief saying that he is no longer in a position to protect women from sex attacks? If so, then he has failed in his job.’
The Social Democratic Party’s Women’s Affairs spokesman in the city, Sandra Frauenberger, added: ‘The first reaction to incidents like this should not be to tell women to be more careful.’
‘The proper reaction is for us all to work together to fight problems like this,’ Ms Frauenberger said.
The country’s Interior Ministry Johanna Mikl-Leitner also waded into the debate saying: ‘The police will make sure that they tackle every sex assault cases with zero tolerance. We women will not allow ourselves to see our freedom to go where we want when we want reduced by even a millimetre’.
Purstl meanwhile defended his statement saying he was simply repeating advice that had been repeated by police for decades as part of the general prevention of crime strategy.
It was the same message that was repeated when it was realised there was a risk of women being tricked by strangers into taking spiked drinks.
The police are already under fire in Austria after admitting only revealing numerous incidents of sex attacks in the city of Salzburg when the full extent of the German problem had become known. The police claimed however it was nothing to do with a conspiracy of silence, and they had acted out of respect for the victims.
So far they said there had been 10 cases in which women had come forward to complain, although on social media many more told their stories, saying they did not want to go to the police.
They said they could not describe the attackers in enough detail as they were too scared and only wanted to get away.
Thousands have pledged their support to a German vigilante group which has vowed to protect women from migrants in the wake of the New Year’s Eve attacks in Cologne.
The group says it wants to make the streets safer through ‘presence’ alone but police have warned that ‘searching for offenders is not a job for citizens’.
After the group was launched, and gained thousands of followers overnight, a Dusseldorf police spokesman told local media that German police is responsible for public security.
He said the police had no problem with people acting bravely in the face of crime but they were against ‘self proclaimed vigilantes’.
German phrasebook found on asylum seeker sex attack suspect in Cologne included lurid phrases such as ‘nice breasts’ and ‘I want to have sex with you’
It is the worst nightmare Chancellor Angela Merkel could have imagined for her ‘open door’ policy towards refugees from war zones which have seen over a million people enter the country in the last 12 months, polarizing opinion and stretching the social fabric ever thinner.
The first two suspects of gang that assaulted and robbed over 100 women on New Year’s Eve were finally arrested today.
Videos of the crowds, together with the howl of fireworks and the shrieks of women they assaulted, were found on their mobile phones.
Officers found a note on one of the men containing Arabic-German translations for phrases including ‘nice breasts’, ‘I’ll kill you’ and ‘I want to have sex with you.’
Twelve more people are being sought in connection with 121 complaints from women attacked on the last night of the year.
Federal police, as opposed to Cologne city officers, were responsible for security inside the besieged train station. They say they quizzed nine Algerians, eight Moroccans, four Syrians, five Iranians, one Iraqi, one Serbian, and one US citizen following reports on the night.
Danger: Some visitors have cancelled planned holidays to Cologne (pictured) and women are said to fear going out by themselves at night
There were 18 asylum seekers among the 31 people stopped by the federal police, who also recorded three sexual assaults.
Hoteliers and trade fair officials said the first cancellations from holidaymakers who planned visits to the ancient city on the Rhine had started in the wake of the attacks.
‘The image of Cologne has suffered a crack,’ said the managing director of Cologne tourism, Josef Sommer. The city tourism office admitted to receiving ‘dozens’ of emails and phone calls from tourists concerned with safety in the city.
Germany’s far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) said ordinary people are now afraid to go out.
Spokesman Klaus Kraemer told MailOnline: ‘German people are now frightened to go to the train station or other open spaces where they may encounter large numbers of refugees.
‘They have become afraid of foreigners. They are now looking over their shoulder when they are in the train station to see who is behind them.
A refugee worker told MailOnline how public opinion in Germany is turning against refugees, saying: ‘The perception of refugees has changes with each new incident like this.
‘Most people used to have sympathy for them, but that is changing, you can see it in people’s attitude and hear it in the way they talk about foreigners.’
Christoph Becker, managing director of the Hotel and Restaurant Association Cologne, encompassing 500 members, spoke of a degree of ‘high uncertainty’ in the near future.
The events of the night there, and in several other German cities including Hamburg where upwards of 50 women reported similar sexual assaults and robberies, have proved manna from heaven for the far right and anti-asylum seeking groups.
Pegida, which draws strong support among the middle classes, is planning a march in the city tomorrow with the theme ‘Pegida Protects.’
Results: The first two suspects of gang that assaulted and robbed over 100 women on New Year’s Eve were arrested today. On one of the suspects they found a
The Alternative for Germany party said what happened in Cologne ‘was a direct result of the policies of Angela Merkel and her government.’
One AFD supporter wrote online: ‘These rapes were only the beginning and it will not stay at hate sermons, thefts, rapes, robberies but escalate to beatings, stabbings,…threats, against the infidels on every corner.’
Another right winger predicted: ‘Soon the mostly young and male interlopers will get that, what they want – and with force of arms. The civil war will come indeed. For these crap people, Merkel must take responsibility. She brought the riff raff in.’
On a post of Pegida on the state of Baden-Württemberg, a supporter invoked the ghost of the Austrian born Hitler, stating: ‘We need a politician from Austria. What is Mrs. Merkel up to, turning German into a negro land?’
The Green Party in Cologne, heavily pro-immigration, warned that new Facebook groups were springing up specifically to spread hatred of asylum seekers.
And the far-right Pro NRW – it stands for North Rhine-Westphalia, the state in which Cologne sits – has a new motto; ‘Immigrant violence won’t leave us cold.’
Evidence: Federal police, who were responsible for security inside the besieged train station (pictured), said theyquizzed nine Algerians, eight Moroccans, four Syrians, five Iranians, one Iraqi, one Serbian, and one US citizen following reports on the night
It said what happened on New Year’s Eve was part of ‘the underbelly of mass immigration. This is a new and disturbing trend – testosterone-driven new residents on the hunt for young indigenous women’.
While life has not stopped for young women in the city, there have noticeably been less of them walking alone through the city at night this week, or travelling home alone on trains, trams and buses.
Management consultant Nicola, 26, told MailOnline: ‘What happened here in the station on Sylvester Night is so completely wrong.
‘We expect that a woman can be safe to walk around at night in Germany, without being harassed by men.
‘This will change the way that German people think about foreigners and accepting refugees.’
Hotel worker Sanu, originally from Niger, West Africa, blasted those responsible – and demanded they be brought to justice.
‘These men would not dare to do something like this in their own country, so why do they think they can get away with it here?’ asked the 29-year-old who has been living in Germany for over a decade.
‘There is no excuse for harassing and touching women in this way. If a man touched a woman like this in an Arab country they would be severely punished. These people are bringing shame on all foreigners coming to Germany.’
Art student Helen, 18, added: ‘What happened here at the station was terrible. It cannot be right that women can’t walk around a city in Germany without being attacked. This is not the German way. We [women] have a right to go and do whatever we want in safety.’
There is a heavy police presence on the streets, taken by some to be too little, too late in the wake of their pathetic response to the chaos inside the station on December 31.