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4 Jan, 2017 22:13

Innsbruck women suffered at least 18 sex attacks amid New Year festivities

Austrian authorities are investigating an unprecedented number of sexual assaults that occurred on New Year’s Eve in the western city of Innsbruck. Eighteen women have so far reported being groped by a crowd of “individuals.”

A group of around 10 unidentified individuals carried out the sexual assaults on young women at Innsbruck’s main square where around 25,000 people gathered on New Year’s Eve, senior police official Ernst Kranebitter said, according to The Local.

“We’ve not had anything like this happen here before,” Kranebitter added, as quoted by 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 attackers have been described as young people in their late teens, according to Kranebitter.

Poor quality amateur video of the assaults hasn’t been of help to investigators.

The incident is reminiscent of last year’s sexual attacks in the German city of Cologne carried out by a group of men allegedly of Arab and North African descent. In that incident, authorities failed to identify all of the assailants.

A German police report from November revealed that a total of 881 sexual offences involving over 1,231 women were committed last year in Cologne.

Ahead of New Year celebrations, police in Austria’s capital Vienna distributed 6,000 “anti-rape” pocket alarms in a bid to step up security and help prevent such incidents. The gadgets emit a shrill sound to deter potential offenders and call for police if needed.

Austria also increased police presence on the streets ahead of the New Year’s festivities following the terror attack at a Christmas market in Berlin, Germany, on 19 December which claimed lives of 12 people and injured 56 more. Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said in December that Austria was well prepared for any attacks, though it was impossible to provide “100 percent security”.

Apart from Germany, Sweden, Austria, Finland, and Switzerland also reported a number of sex attacks last year.