Police in the Austrian city of Innsbruck are searching for a group of men “of foreign appearance” in connection with a series of sexual assaults on women during New Year celebrations. The men, described as Asian or north African, surrounded 18 women watching a firework display, kissing and groping them, police said.
Nineteen women have so far come forward to identify themselves as victims of the assaults, which are reminiscent of the Cologne sex attacks of New Year’s Eve in 2015.
The women said they had been harassed by groups of up to ten men in the city centre, Ernst Kranebitter, a spokesman for the local police, said. “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.”
“This has never happened to us before,” Ch Insp Kranebitter said. “It has definitely been proved that the men are foreign. . . We are investigating.” The incidents left Innsbruck, a deeply conservative city of some 130,000 people amid the high Alps of western Austria, in shock.
The women described their attackers as of foreign appearance, with dark skin. Some were bearded while others were not. One of the men was missing a tooth.
The attacks took place in and around the Market Square in the heart of the Alpine city between 11.30pm and 1.30am, when the area was most crowded.
There is video footage of some of the attacks from a private security camera, but it is of poor quality and the suspects cannot be identified. Victims also took a number of photographs of the men using their mobile phones, but the images are poorly lit and blurred. Police have CCTV cameras in the city centre but they are only used for live surveillance and no recordings are made.
Police believe all the attacks were carried out by the same group of men. The attacks were “systematic”, with the victims being pushed away or otherwise separated from their groups.
The interview with Ch Insp Kranebitter and others on Russia Today is worth watching. Apparently the North African ‘criminal fraternity’ have been a source of concern for some years. I’m not surprised. The atmosphere in Innsbruck when I visted 2 years ago for the first time in over 20 years (the Tyrol was a frequent holiday destination in my younger days) was, not menacing and I am used to a very big city, shall we say changed.