Tensions rise in Germany as Cologne attack cases hit 516

A pro-refugee protestor stands opposing the  xenophobic far-right movement PEGIDA at a counter rally in Leipzig. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

A pro-refugee protestor stands opposing the xenophobic far-right movement PEGIDA at a counter rally in Leipzig. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

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A group of Pakistanis and a Syrians have been attacked in Cologne amid tensions over New Year’s Eve assaults in the city that have been blamed largely on foreigners, German police said.

It comes as the number of criminal complaints filed in connection with the attacks rose to 516 and officials reportedly confirmed that the suspects were “almost exclusively” those with a migration background, mainly North African and Arab.

Police said they received tips on Sunday 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 assaults. A Syrian man was also attacked by five people on Sunday but he did not need treatment for his injuries.

The New Year assaults have stoked tensions over Germany’s open-door policy in the refugee crisis and prompted politicians to call for tougher laws against migrants who commit crimes.

Authorities and witnesses said the attackers were among a group of about 1,000 people described as predominantly Arab or North African who gathered at Cologne’s central railway station. Some broke off into small groups and groped and robbed women, police said.

In a separate incident, police said two migrants – a Syrian and an Afghan – were arrested in northern Germany on Sunday on suspicion of attacking and robbing a French man who was wearing a Jewish skullcap.

Police said the 49-year-old was in a waiting room at Puttgarden ferry port on Saturday when the two men, saying “Jew” in Arabic, pushed him to the floor. They stole a bag containing cash, a bank card, a train ticket and a mobile phone.

The two men had been denied entry to Denmark the previous day because they lacked the correct papers.

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