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Austrian police investigating reports of sexual assaults at New Year's Eve celebration

Some 18 women said they were groped by up to 10 individuals on Innsbruck’s main square where around 25,000 gathered to ring in 2017.

Police patrol a Christmas market in downtown Vienna, Austria last month
Police patrol a Christmas market in downtown Vienna, Austria last month
Image: Ronald Zak AP/Press Association Images

AUSTRIAN POLICE ARE investigating an unprecedented number of sexual assaults carried out by a group of men on New Year’s Eve in the western city of Innsbruck, an official said today.

Some 18 women reported having been groped by up to 10 individuals on Innsbruck’s main square where around 25,000 gathered to ring in 2017, senior police official Ernst Kranebitter said.

“We’ve not had anything like this happen here before,” Kranebitter told AFP.

“They were dancing around the victims and then suddenly grabbed their breast or stuck their hands between their legs. That’s what made it hard for others to notice what was going on — it all happened amid festivities.”

The suspects have been described as being in their late teens, Kranebitter said.

Amateur video footage of the incidents has so far failed to help investigators identify the suspects because the image quality was too poor.

Cologne 

The assault came a year after hundreds of women were mugged and groped in a crowd of men of mainly Arab and north African appearance in the German city of Cologne on 31 December 2015.

To avoid a similar incident, police in Vienna distributed 6,000 pocket alarms on New Year’s Eve last week to help prevent attacks.

Police presence had been boosted across Austria, including in Innsbruck, for the end-of-year festivities in the wake of a terror attack in neighbouring Germany in early December.

© AFP 2017

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