HUFFINGTON POST

Here's What We Know So Far About The Sexual Assaults At Cologne's Train Station

German officials have now identified 31 suspects including 18 asylum seekers.
Police officers survey the area in front of the train station in Cologne, in western Germany. No arrests have been made thus
Police officers survey the area in front of the train station in Cologne, in western Germany. No arrests have been made thus far for the large-scale assaults that took place there on New Year's Eve.

The mass sexual assaults outside the central train station in Cologne, Germany, on New Year's Eve are currently the subject of ongoing police investigations in the country and heated debate throughout Europe. 

Many women reported being robbed or sexually assaulted by a group of men that night. After a week of explosive revelations of police failure and controversy, Cologne police chief Wolfgang Albers was fired, a police spokesman confirmed in a press conference Friday. 

Making matters worse, the city's mayor has been widely excoriated for suggesting earlier this week that women could protect themselves on the street by keeping an arm’s length distance from men.

An internal report on the incident, prepared by a senior German federal police officer and leaked to the German newspaper Der Spiegel Thursday, added to the controversy. The document describes women being forced to run through hordes of drunken men

"Women, accompanied or not, literally ran a 'gauntlet' through masses of heavily intoxicated men that words cannot describe," said the report. It also concedes authorities' failure to control the situation, describing a chaotic scene in which “security forces were unable to get all of the incidents, assaults, crimes, etc. under control. There were simply too many happening at the same time.”

While police spokesman Jens Floeren confirmed the leaked report's authenticity, he was quick to add that it was one officer's "subjective assessment." 

Here are the facts we know about the attackers so far:

People gathering in front of the station on New Year's Eve.
People gathering in front of the station on New Year's Eve.

Two men have been arrested so far.

Officials have identified 31 suspects and arrested two men, ages 16 and 23, as of Friday. Both men have “North African roots,” a police spokeswoman said. 

Although police forces were on the scene at the time of the attacks, no one was arrested that night.

German officials have said that asylum seekers were involved in the attacks.

Interior Ministry spokesman Tobias Plate announced in a news conference Friday that 18 of the 31 suspects identified as having a role in the attacks had asylum seeker status. 

The internal police report leaked Thursday suggested some involvement by migrants. One example that a police officer provided for the document quoted a man as saying: "I'm a Syrian! You have to treat me kindly! Mrs. Merkel invited me," referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Some German officials have used the incident to argue for tightening border controls. The leader of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has stated that the mass assault was “a result of unchecked immigration.” The anti-Islam group Pegida is planning to hold a rally outside the Cologne train station on Saturday.

On Thursday, Merkel said, "We must examine again and again whether we have already done what is necessary in terms of... deportations from Germany in order to send clear signals to those who are not prepared to abide by our legal order."

People gathering in front of the station on New Year's Eve.
People gathering in front of the station on New Year's Eve.

More than 150 complaints have been filed, including several alleging rape.

Cologne police have said about 170 people filed criminal complaints, including at least two allegations of rape. Most of the complaints filed make claims of sexual assault, The New York Times reported. 

Contrary to some claims, the media has not ignored this incident.

Many have falsely claimed that the media has ignored this matter. "Where's the outcry when you really need it?" Jens Spahn, a member of the Bundestag for the CDU, Germany's center-right party, posted on Twitter earlier this week.

However, on New Year's Day, there were reports in Cologne's local media (Express, Cologne Rundshau and Kölner Stadt Anzeiger) in addition to some national media outlets (such as Focus Online and Welt). Germany’s public broadcaster, ZDF, publicly apologized for only reporting on the attacks four days after they took place. Over the past week, the event has been heavily covered by German and international media.

An earlier version of this article first appeared on HuffPost Germany. It has been translated into English and updated with the latest available information.

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