The number of criminal complaints filed over assaults during the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Cologne, Germany, has now topped 500, with about 40% of those being of a sexual nature and including two counts of rape, police said.

This new figure – which if 516, to be exact – is a significant leap from yesterday’s reported figure of 379, which in itself was a huge leap from the 150 or so originally filed.

Police say 19 suspects are under investigation.

German justice minister Heiko Maas is urging authorities to investigate whether the Cologne assaults were planned in coordination with similar ones in other European cities including Salzburg, Zurich, Helsinki, and Hamburg, where police say 133 similar charges have been lodged.

“If such a horde gathers in order to commit crimes, that appears in some form to be planned,” he told newspaper Bild am Sonntag. “Nobody can tell me that this was not coordinated or prepared.”

The attacks have brought with them fresh criticism of Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s open-door migrant policy (more than one million refugees arrived in 2015). An anti-Islam protest in Cologne on Saturday turned violent when the 1,700 protesters clashed with some 1,300 counter-protesters, and police resorted to using water cannons to disperse the crowds.

Merkel has said that refugees will not be above the law.

“If a refugee flouts the rules, then there must be consequences, that means they can lose their residence right here regardless of whether they have a suspended sentence of a prison sentence,” she said. 

Ministers have said there is no evidence that asylum seekers were involved in the violence, but leaked police reports published in the Bild claim that one person involved allegedly told police officers: “I am Syrian. You have to treat me kindly. Mrs Merkel invited me.”


Photo: Sascha Schuermann / Getty.