The German city of Cologne has been branded a “no-go zone” for women by the 18-year-old victim of sex attack carried out by up to 30 men.
The young woman, who was identified only by the name Michelle, told Germany’s N-TV news network that the attackers surrounded her and a group of 11 female friends during last week’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, repeatedly groped them and then stole their belongings.
Police have not yet made any arrests after 90 criminal complaints were filed, including one allegation of rape. It is believed that around 1,000 men, who split into gangs, were involved in the attacks at the city’s train station.
Describing her harrowing ordeal, Michelle was quoted by MailOnline as saying: “At around 11pm we were at the main train station and wanted to travel on to see the fireworks and that was when we first noticed all these men standing around.
“We managed to go into the cathedral and wanted to go past the Museum Ludwig to join everyone and watch the fireworks by the river, but suddenly we were surrounded by a group of between 20 and 30 men,” she reportedly added.
Michelle told N-TV that her terrified friends linked arms for safety, but their attackers were “full of anger” and tried pulling them off in separate directions. When that failed the men began groping the young women and stealing items from their pockets, including mobile phones.
Undeterred by the assault, the young women continued with their evening but later ran into a different group of men firing fireworks at one another near Cologne station. In the crush to get on to the platform Michelle lost her friends and subsequently realised she’d missed her last train. Alone, she then had to make her way back through the crowd of men before walking the three miles home.
The city's mayor Henriette Rekeryor provoked outrage and accusations of victim-blaming for her comments suggesting women need to be 'better prepared' for such incidents.She offered suggestions on how women should behave to avoid similar attacks, including remaining 'within your own group, and asking bystanders to intervene or to help as a witness'.
It is believed that at least 118 German women have come forward to report being sexually assaulted on New Year’s Eve alone. Incidents were recorded in Hamburg and Stuttgart as well as Cologne.
Victims were largely women in their teens or early 20s with many eyewitnesses alleging the sex attackers were of Middle Eastern or North African appearance. This has fuelled tensions in Germany where many locals blame the assaults on the large number of refugees and migrants to have arrived in the country over the past 12 months.
Protesters took to the streets of Cologne last night, angrily blaming Chancellor Angela Merkel for the sexual assaults by agreeing to allow more than one million asylum seekers into the country in 2015 alone. One female demonstrator was seen holding a sign reading: “Mrs Merkel, what are you doing? This is scary.”
Cologne's police chief has admitted failing to acess the gravity of the situation in the city but said speculation that the attackers were refugees is "absolutely inadmissable". Officers are understood to be hunting for up to 1,000 men who may have taken part in the New Year's Eve assaults.
Ms Reker also told reporters: “It’s completely improper… to link a group that appeared to come from North Africa with the refugees."