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Cologne Attacks Planned in Advance: German Justice Minister
   2016-01-10 20:08:38    Xinhua      Web Editor: Qian Shanming

A supporter of anti-immigration right-wing movement PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) holds an anti-mosque placard during a demonstration rally in Cologne, Germany January 9, 2016. [Photo: CFP]

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said on Sunday that he believed the string of sexual assaults in Cologne were "coordinated and prepared" ahead of time.

"No one can tell me that it wasn't coordinated and prepared," Maas said in an interview with German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

He voiced his suspicions that the crimes which have the whole country reeling were not the result of an opportunistic mob mentality, but a thought-out, planned attack.

On New Year's Eve, a group of about 1,000 men have surrounded, harassed and robbed, especially women in the western German city of Cologne. The number of criminal charges after assaults in Cologne has increased dramatically from around 170 to 379, German police said on Saturday.

"The suspicion is that a specific date and the expected crowds were picked. This would again add another dimension (to the crimes)," Maas told Bild am Sonntag, called for a thorough investigation into connections between attacks that happened in different German cities.

Citing confidential police reports, the newspaper also reported indications that some "North African groups" had encourage their fellow countrymen via social networks to come to Cologne on New Year's Eve.

North Africans from Cologne and the surrounding area as well as neighboring countries were asked to go to Cologne central train station on that night, according to the reports.

Maas, however, warned against drawing conclusions about the law-abiding of migrants from the incidents in Cologne, saying "to assume from somebody's origin whether or not he is delinquent is quite reckless."

The minister also said it was "simply wrong" to see a connection between the case in Cologne and the refugee influx, calling it "complete nonsense" to take these crimes as evidence that foreigners cannot be integrated into German society. 

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