Number of complaints filed in Cologne sex assaults now over 500

The number of cases reported to Cologne police following a night of mass sex assaults and thefts continued to rise sharply, with the latest official figures rising to 516 complaints from a previous 379.

Around 40 per cent of the complaints involve allegations of sexual assault, according to the police statement.

It said that a 19-year-old Moroccan man had been arrested in connection with the New Year's Eve attacks, which saw around 1,000 intoxicated men congregate in front of the western Germany city's main train station.

The police are also looking into charges filed against 19 named suspects.

Most of the perpetrators are reported to have been of North African or Arab appearance, sparking international debate over Germany's decision to allow over 1 million migrants into the country last year, with many concerned that some men among the arrivals may not adhere to Western values.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas believes that the attacks were organized, according to comments in Sunday's edition of the Bild newspaper.

"When such a horde meets to commit crimes, it seems to have been planned in some way. Nobody can tell me that it wasn't coordinated or pre-prepared," Maas was quoted in the popular tabloid as saying.

Maas was also not prepared to rule out a connection between the Cologne attacks and those on women elsewhere in Germany.

The wave of crimes in Cologne were mirrored in Hamburg on New Year's Eve, where 108 complaints were filed, and to a much lesser extent in other cities.

At the same time Maas warned people not to draw conclusions about how law-abiding migrants are from the attacks.

But Maas warned people against drawing conclusions on crime based on race. "To infer from someone's background that he is more likely to commit a crime or not I find to be risky," he said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel responded to the tense debate on Saturday by promising tougher action against criminals of foreign nationality, including measures to revoke the right to claim asylum from people who break the law.

The leader of the parliamentary group of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Thomas Oppermann, said on Sunday the coalition partners should not descend into an "ideological row" over the issue.

He said he was "confident that the demands by the SPD for more staff and video surveillance could be decided quickly."

"We will also look impartially into whether we need to change the legal position," he added, a reference to Merkel's proposals.

Last update: Sun, 21/08/2016 - 12:54

More from Europe

Greece can receive new 2.8-billion-euro aid tranche, EU sources say

Greece's creditors are expected this week to approve a further 2.8 billion euros (3.1 billion dollars) in bailout...

Northern Ireland Christian bakers lose appeal in row over "gay cake"

A Northern Irish bakery lost its appeal against a court ruling that said it discriminated against a gay man by...

Mystery over identity of French killed in Maltese plane crash

Five French nationals were killed when a military aircraft crashed on take-off from Malta on Monday, the Maltese...

Belgian regional parliament digs in heels on EU-Canada trade deal

Last-ditch efforts to salvage a free trade deal between the European Union and Canada on Monday are bound to fail, a...

Lithuania president wants to "restore ruined confidence" after polls

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite on Monday called for "responsible solutions" from the centrist Peasants and...