Europe

New Year's Eve sex assaults prompt police manhunt in Austria

General view of the City of Innsbruck, seen during dusk on October 15, 2007 in Innsbruck, Austria. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The attacks took place in Innsbruck, a popular winter sports destination in western Austria

Police in Austria are hunting for at least six men accused of "unprecedented" sexual assaults on New Year's Eve in the city of Innsbruck.

The men, described as Asian or north African, surrounded 18 women watching a firework display, kissing and groping them, police said.

A special police investigation team is conducting the search.

Authorities said they were also searching refugee shelters for the suspects.

The attack happened in the city's main square, where thousands had gathered for the New Year's Eve celebration, the AFP news agency reported.

The head of the investigation, Ernst Kranebitter, told the BBC that the scale of the attacks and the way they were carried out were unprecedented for Innsbruck.

Innsbruck's attacks come a year after more than 100 women reported sexual assaults in Cologne, Germany, on New Year's Eve 2015. Gangs of migrants were accused of the assaults.

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Media captionMohamed Madi reports on the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Cologne

Cologne responded with an increased police presence at this year's event. But police were accused of racial profiling, and it emerged that almost all of the 650 people stopped for identity checks were north African.

Meanwhile, reports of mass sexual assaults in the southern Indian city of Bangalore on New Year's Eve have been dismissed by local police.

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