Rightist protests over assaults pose new challenge for Cologne police

Cologne police were gearing up for a day of highly charged demonstrations on Saturday, with 1,000 far-right protesters expected to hit the streets in response to a night of mass sex assaults and thefts targeting women on New Year's Eve.

Hundred-strong teams of police were deployed to locations across the western German city, totalling 1,700 officers, a spokesman said.

The Islamophobic Pegida movement and the right-wing extremist Pro Cologne party were to stage a rally on the square in front of the main train station, where around 1,000 intoxicated men are thought to have robbed, sexually assaulted and in some cases raped women during turn-of-the-year celebrations.

Of the 32 suspects identified by police in Cologne, 22 are asylum seekers, the German Interior Ministry said. One suspect was carrying a document with Arabic-German translations of sexist phrases and threats, which mass-circulation tabloid Bild published on Saturday.

Several pro-migration counter-protests have also been planned for Saturday, underscoring the division in German society over the government's open-door migration policy, which allowed over 1 million people to enter the country last year.

Last update: Sat, 09/01/2016 - 16:34

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