Austria investigates New Year’s Eve assaults in Innsbruck

Police are working on videos, reported to be of poor quality. [Shutterstock]

Innsbruck police are trying to identify a group of foreign men believed to have sexually assaulted 18 women during New Year’s Eve celebrations, a spokesman said yesterday (4 January).

The women have reported that unidentified assailants had groped and tried to kiss them that evening as they stood in or near a crowded central square for a concert and fireworks display. Most described a group of five or six men, the police spokesman said.

In neighbouring Germany last year, hundreds of women were sexually assaulted and robbed at New Year’s celebrations in Cologne and suspects were mainly of North African and Arab appearance. Police there said they prevented a repeat of this year by screening 650 mostly North African men on the night.

Cologne assaults reverberate across Europe

The attacks carried out against women, in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, are still reverberating across Europe, auguring for more resentment against immigrants, and eroding the remnants of multicultural attitudes. The EURACTIV network reports.

Anti-immigrant sentiment has boosted support for far-right parties in both Austria and Germany after both countries took in waves of refugees, many of them from the Middle East and North Africa, during Europe’s migration crisis in 2015.

Witnesses in Innsbruck, a city in the Alps in western Austria, said the New Year’s assailants were in their 20s or 30s and had dark complexions, but their nationality was not clear.

“It has definitely been proven that they are foreign,” the spokesman for the police in the western province of Tyrol said, adding witnesses reported they spoke English or poor German. “We are investigating. We have videos of poor quality but we are trying to make the best of them.”

The assaults happened in spite of a reinforced police presence, due to the Cologne assaults and last month’s truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, the spokesman said.

Berlin Christmas market attack ‘affects all Europe’

French President François Hollande and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker sent the German people their sympathies after a truck plowed into a crowded Christmas market in central Berlin yesterday evening (19 December) killing 12 people in what police this morning described as “an attack”.

Roughly 25,000 people gathered in the area of the central Market Square for a concert and fireworks display, visibility was limited, he added.

“We have never seen anything in this form,” he said. “I cannot remember (an attack) of this intensity, on this scale and with this modus operandi.”

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