German sex gang attacks: 'I'm scared to walk through Cologne'

Women gather in Cologne in protest.

Women in the German city of Cologne say they're now living in fear after gangs of men carried out sex attacks on New Year's Eve.

More than 100 victims say they were targeted by groups of up to 30 men at once, outside the city's main station.

It's believed around 1,000 young men were involved. Two women say they were raped.

One young woman told Newsbeat a firecracker was put inside her jacket pocket and it "burned everything".

Jenny said: "The scars will stay. I was lucky that it didn't explode.

"My mobile phone was gone afterwards."

On Tuesday night hundreds of women took to the streets to protest and police are being criticised for their handling of the attacks.

The men allegedly involved in the attacks were said to be of Arab or North African appearance, according to police and witnesses. Many were "drunk and aggressive".

Crowds gather around Cologne station on 31 December
Image caption Crowds gather around Cologne station on 31 December
Police intervened and made arrests on the night
Image caption Police make an arrest on New Year's Eve but there has been widespread criticism of the slow response by city authorities

Twenty-year-old Selina Hemp, who lives in Cologne, tweeted about how she felt passing through the station in the days since.

She told Newsbeat: "I'm a little bit scared when I'm going through Cologne and I'm looking around all the time.

"It's an awful feeling to know that it could happen to myself too. The atmosphere is really heavy.

"There are more police at the central station and on the streets around."

Protesters are demanding action from the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. One placard read: "Mrs Merkel! Where are you? What do you say? This alarms us!"

Women holding placards insisting the German Chancellor to take action.

Some protested in other parts of Germany too.

The chancellor has since voiced outrage over the attacks saying everything must be done "to find the perpetrators as quickly and comprehensively as possible and punish them, regardless of their origin or background".

Meanwhile the city's mayor Henriette Reker has been mocked on social media for the "advice" she has given to women.

Reker suggested that women maintain an arm's length distance from strangers, stay within their own group and ask for help or intervene as a witness.

In response, Reker said: "This morning we developed measures which should prevent such incidents in the future. This is very important."

"It is important that we strengthen police presence in the current situation," Cologne's police chief, Wolfgang Albers, added as he promised temporary video surveillance "in critical places".

One woman told the BBC: "Where did 1,000 people suddenly come from? Where did they come from all of a sudden, in such a large amount?"

Political leaders have said that no link should be made between the violence and the increase of more than one million refugees and migrants in the past year.

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