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Heavy police presence keeps Cologne calm on New Year’s Eve

Policemen control visitors at the main train station in Cologne on December 31, 2016 during the New Year's eve. PATRIK STOLLARZ / AFP

Policemen control visitors at the main train station in Cologne on December 31, 2016 during the New Year’s eve.<br />PATRIK STOLLARZ / AFP

Police in the German city of Cologne said Sunday a large mobilisation of officers on New Year’s Eve prevented major disturbances after mass sexual assaults marred festivities a year earlier.

More than 2,000 police were deployed, over 10 times last year’s number, in the western city where a year ago hundreds of women were assaulted and robbed, mostly by men described as of Arab and North African origin.

This year police at the flashpoint central railway station and on trains targeted large groups of men of North African origin, checked the identity papers of some 900 people, and ordered many of them to leave the area, police said.


City police chief Juergen Mathis denied criticism on social media that a police focus on men from Maghreb countries amounted to “racial profiling”, arguing that many of them had acted in an “aggressive” manner.

“I reject such criticism,” he told a press conference. “The clear aim was to prevent similar events to those of last year.”

At the Cologne railway station square, across from the city’s iconic cathedral, authorities also banned fireworks, all bags were checked and new high-definition video cameras provided a live feed to police headquarters.

In the capital Berlin, too, police reported a relatively normal New Year’s Eve night as thousands of revellers rang in 2017 at the landmark Brandenburg Gate.

Following a December 19 jihadist attack in which a truck ploughed through a Berlin Christmas market and 12 people died, the mass event was shielded by concrete barriers and guarded by police carrying automatic rifles.


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