Italian police are investigating 18 men and teenage boys on suspicion of sexually assaulting young women who were celebrating New Year’s Eve in Milan.
Police said most of the suspects were foreigners or Italians of North African origin, evoking disturbing parallels with the sexual violence perpetrated on New Year’s Eve by men of Middle Eastern or North African background in the German city of Cologne in 2015.
Police on Tuesday raided the homes of 15 young men and three boys, aged between 15 and 21, in Milan and Turin.
They were identified with the help of mobile phone footage and CCTV images, as well as the testimony of alleged victims and analysis of social media content. Facial recognition software was also used to find the suspects.
So far, nine women have come forward to say they were sexually assaulted, but police believe there may be more.
‘I hope they find them and that justice is done’
"I hope they find them and that justice is done for us and all of the other girls that were molested that night," one of two German women who were alleged victims of the assaults told ANSA, Italy’s national news agency.
"We tried to push them away, my girlfriend punched them and slapped them but they just laughed and continued molesting us, I had 15 hands on me."
She claimed that there were police officers in the piazza but that they did not intervene.
"The police saw us and did nothing, I don’t know why. It was shocking because they must have seen us."
Another woman said a group of youths ripped off her bra, forced her to the ground and grabbed her breasts.
She had worn a pair of leggings beneath her skirt to ward off the cold – without those she fears she would have been raped.
Echoes of Cologne 2015
Hundreds of women were sexually assaulted in Cologne on New Year’s Eve 2015, with many of the perpetrators of North African origin.
A total of 1,210 criminal complaints were made, more than 500 of them involving sexual assault, and 28 relating to rape or attempted rape.
There were similar assaults in other German cities, including Hanover, Hamburg and Frankfurt am Main, although on a lesser scale.