German authorities say they have identified 18 asylum-seekers among 31 suspects linked to crimes committed in Cologne on New Year’s Eve.

According to BBC News, an interior ministry spokesman said the suspects’ alleged offences were “mostly theft and causing bodily harm”.

Federal police recorded several complaints of sexual offences, but the perpetrators have not been identified.

Gangs of men described as of North African and Arab appearance were reported to be behind the attacks.

The violence outside Cologne’s main train station on December 31st, 2015 has sparked a heated debate about Germany’s open door policy on migrants and led to criticism of the police’s handling of the night’s events.

The state interior minister said today that he had placed the head of Cologne’s police force, Wolfgang Albers, in temporary retirement “to restore public trust in the police”.

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