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German Officials Suspect 18 Asylum Seekers in New Year's Attacks


People protest in front of the main station in Cologne, Germany, on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016.

People protest in front of the main station in Cologne, Germany, on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016.


German officials say 18 asylum-seekers are among the suspects in thefts and sexual assaults on women in Cologne on New Year's Eve.

Interior Ministry official Tobias Plate spoke to reporters Friday morning. He said police have identified 31 suspects. Eighteen had earlier requested asylum in Germany.

Plate said two of the 31 suspects are German. Nine are Algerian, eight are from Morocco, five are Iranian, and four are Syrians. The remaining three are from Iraq, Serbia and the United States.

Police have documented 32 criminal acts. Plate said the large majority were tied to theft and physical injury. Three were tied to sexual assaults.

Also Friday, officials forced the police chief of Cologne to retire. He had faced growing criticism of the way his department dealt with the New Year’s Eve attacks.

About 1,000 men had gathered near Cologne's main train station around midnight, throwing fireworks. After police moved in to stop them, smaller groups of men began surrounding women in the area. They reportedly groped the women and stole from them.

A policewoman said she was among those attacked.

About 90 people have filed criminal complaints, including one report of a rape.

The assaults have intensified the debate over Germany's immigration policies. Some 1.1 million people registered as asylum seekers in Germany last year.

Both Germany’s chancellor and its justice minister have called for the perpetrators to be punished.

On Thursday, the German justice minister said any asylum-seekers among the suspects could be deported if found guilty.

I’m Caty Weaver.

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Words in This Story

assault n. the crime of trying or threatening to hurt someone physically​

gropev. to touch (someone) in an unwanted and unexpected sexual way​

complaintn.a formal charge saying that someone has done something wrong​

perpetratorv. the doer of something that is illegal or wrong

deportv. to force a person to leave a country ​of which she or he is not a citizen​

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