By Mahita Gajanan
January 5, 2017

Austrian police are investigating reports that a group of foreign men sexually assaulted 18 women on New Year’s Eve in the city of Innsbruck.

A group of about five or six men reportedly groped and attempted to kiss the women during New Year’s celebrations in a crowded central square, a police spokesman told Reuters. Witnesses said the unidentified assailants appeared to be in their 20s and 30s, had dark complexions and spoke English or poor German. Their nationality remained unclear.

“It has definitely been proven that they were foreign,” the spokesman said. “We are investigating. We have videos of poor quality but we are trying to make the best of them.”

The reports come amid anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe that has buoyed the popularity of far-right parties in Austria and Germany after both countries saw a growth in migrants in 2015.

The reported attacks recall the hundreds of women who were sexually assaulted during New Year’s festivities in Germany last year by suspects who were thought to be of North African or Arab appearance. The assaults prompted stronger police presence at the celebrations this year.

Write to Mahita Gajanan at mahita.gajanan@time.com.

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