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Afghan Migrants Suspected Of Harassing Women On New Year's Eve In Austria

Austrian authorities say that some 130,000 people have applied for asylum in the country since 2015 (file photo).

Austrian police have identified six young men suspected of molesting at least 18 women during New Year's Eve festivities in Innsbruck, the city's police chief said on January 9.

Martin Kirchler told reporters that the six are Afghan nationals aged 18 to 22, some of them living in migrants' shelters. The police chief did not name the suspects in line with Austrian privacy laws.

The women reported that assailants had groped and tried to kiss them that evening as they stood in or near a crowded central square in the city of Innsbruck, in the western province of Tyrol, for a concert and fireworks display. Similar complaints have been filed by several women in other Austrian cities.

Ernst Kranebitter of the Tyrol police force said that some victims in Innsbruck managed to take pictures of their assailants with their mobile phones, which helped police find the six suspects.

One of the men has confessed and apologized, while others deny the accusations, Kranebitter said.

No arrests have been made yet pending the end of investigations, he added.

Last year, groups of young men, mostly from North Africa, were accused of sexually assaulting or otherwise harassing dozens of women on New Year's Eve in Cologne, Germany.

The assaults in Innsbruck came despite an increased police presence following the Cologne incidents and also the December 19 deadly truck attack at a Berlin Christmas market.

Austrian authorities say that some 130,000 people have applied for asylum in the country since 2015, when more than one million migrants entered Europe, many fleeing conflicts in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

Based on reporting by dpa, Reuters, and AP

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