Austrian police have confirmed that they are investigating a number of complaints and that so far three men have been arrested in connection with the reported assaults.
A 23-year-old man is alleged to have molested a young German woman in central Salzburg, and then went on to set off fireworks in the direction of a 17-year-old, who was slightly injured in the abdomen. Police said in a statement that the man was of Syrian nationality.
Earlier this week several other women came forward to tell Salzburg police that they had been sexually assaulted on New Year’s Eve. A 22-year-old said that she was harassed by a group of men on Residenzplatz in the heart of the city, who groped her and then stole her mobile phone. She told police that the group consisted of around eight to ten men who all seemed to be foreigners.
A 58-year-old woman told police that she was also sexually assaulted on Residenzplatz, by a 28-year-old man. She immediately went to the police and the man has since been arrested. According to the police report he is originally from Afghanistan.
Police are also investigating another complaint from a 28-year-old woman who said she was sexually assaulted by a 24-year-old man outside a popular Salzburg nightclub on December 30th. The club’s bouncers were able to tackle the man and hold on to him until police arrived and arrested him. Again, the police report says the man is of Afghan nationality.
“State police are currently investigating whether these were organized attacks and if there are any connections between individual perpetrators or groups of perpetrators,” police spokeswoman Valerie Hillebrand said on Thursday.
She added that the fact that news of the attacks has only just emerged was not because police had tried to conceal them, but that the victims had only been encouraged to report what had happened to them after reading about similar attacks in Germany.
A police report from Cologne shows that police struggled to deal with an unruly group of males who threw fireworks and bottles at the New Year's Eve crowds at random and that there were reports of large scale sexual assaults. Police in Cologne have said that they believe the perpetrators were of “Arab background”.
German politicians have urged the public not to stigmatise immigrant groups following the alleged attacks.