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Dozens held in Cologne over New Year violence, majority asylum seekers

Thirty-two suspects, including 18 asylum seekers, are under investigation for a series of offences, ranging from theft to assault, that rocked the German city of Cologne on New Year’s Eve, officials said Friday.

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Interior ministry spokesman Tobias Platt said, however, that none of them are suspected of having committed sexual assaults.

An unusually high number of sexual offences were reported during the year-end celebrations in the city, causing outrage among its citizens and triggering a heated public debate about Germany's ability to integrate the nearly 1.1 million asylum seekers the country took in last year.

"The perpetrators for these [acts] have not been identified," Platt told reporters of the sexual assaults, adding that the people currently being held are suspected of "mostly theft and causing bodily harm".

The suspects currently in detention include nine Algerians, eight Moroccans, four Syrians, five Iranians, one each from Iraq, Serbia and the United States, and two Germans, he said.

According to police, 121 complaints of assaults, ranging from two alleged rapes to several accounts of groping, were reported by women in connection with the New Year celebrations. Some victims have said the attacks seemed to be coordinated, saying they were surrounded by the perpetrators, assaulted and in several cases robbed.

The attacks allegedly began when police evacuated a main square in the city over fears that revelers could be injured by fireworks.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed shock over the assaults, but has warned against anti-migrant scapegoating.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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