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Germany

Cologne readies for New Year's Eve after sexual assaults, terror attack

Cologne police have increased security measures for New Year's celebrations after last year's sexual assaults. Authorities have also taken additional precautions in the wake of last week's terror attack in Berlin.

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Cologne prepares for New Year's Eve

Cologne will deploy more than 1,500 police officers and erect concrete barriers on December 31, police chief Jürgen Mathies said on Wednesday.

The area around the city's historic cathedral and train station was the scene of hundreds of robberies and sexual assaults last year blamed mostly on foreign men from the Middle East and North Africa. Police came under pressure for being unprepared in the wake of the scandal, which came as an influx of migrants entered the country.

Public outrage

The number of police to be deployed on Saturday around the city center is almost 10 times more than were on the streets last year.

With a police intervention unit and a helicopter on standby, authorities are confident about their response readiness. They have also installed high-quality security cameras in front of Cologne's Central Station, the site of last year's assaults. The decision to do so follows public uproar over a lack of electronic eyes in urban areas that have been targeted by terrorists.

Anti-terrorism measures

After a truck rammed into a Berlin Christmas market last week, killing 12 and wounding nearly 50, Mathies also said police would place concrete blocks and vehicles at various locations to prevent a copycat attack.

"The last two weeks have shown us how fragile our security can be," Mathies said. He added that he believed police were well-prepared to provide security for those ringing in the new year.

A permit for a protest organized by the far-right NPD nationalist political party, planned for New Year's Eve, has been denied. Mathies said the protest would have drawn counter-demonstrations and endangered security.

cw/kms (AP, dpa, epd)

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