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5 Jan, 2017 16:59

‘You could have prevented it’: Austrian politician to police chiefs on Innsbruck sex attacks

‘You could have prevented it’: Austrian politician to police chiefs on Innsbruck sex attacks

Police chiefs could have thwarted sexual attacks on women in Innsbruck on the New Year’s Eve night, Markus Abwerzger, an Austrian politician from the right-wing Freedom Party (FPO), said. Police insists they were prepared in “the best way possible.”

Abwerzger, who is the FPO chief in the state of Tirol where Innsbruck is located, voiced his unease about the police action in a statement published on the party’s website.

“Police chiefs could have prevented sexual assaults on women, as reported by the media, since the suspected perpetrators were acting like on New Year's Eve 2015/2016 in Cologne,” the politician .

“You cannot just go over to the daily agenda and pretend one has done everything possible anyway.” 

The critique did not sit well with police though, who claimed they were in fact adequately prepared for the celebrations.

“We were prepared the best way possible and have done everything necessary according to our estimations,” Innsbruck Police Chief Martin Kirchler  Tiroler Tageszeiting on Wednesday. He though added that police “regretted” the escalation of the situation during the celebrations and called for “zero tolerance” to any sexual harassment.

According to Tiroler Tageszeiting, citing police, 90 officers were deployed to guard the celebrations this year, compared to around 60 in 2016.

“We are currently evaluating the operation... looking into what can be done in a better way,” Kirchler  TT on Thursday.

READ MORE: Cologne police slammed for ‘racial profiling’ after mass migrant screening on NYE

At least 18 women were sexually assaulted by “a larger group of people” during the New Year’s celebration in central Innsbruck, chief investigator, Ernst Kranebitter confirmed to the newspaper.

“The attackers are between 20 and 41 years old,” Kranebitter said, adding that descriptions of the alleged perpetrators differ greatly.

According information obtained by police, the suspected assailants might be of “Asian” origin, while earlier media reports citing police said that people of “north African” appearance cannot be excluded.

Police obtained several photos and are showing them at “foreigners’ accommodations,” the chief investigator said. Police have also asked for any available video or photo evidence of the incident to be sent to the authorities.