Italian security officials on Saturday appealed to women or girls who think they were sexually abused or molested by mobs during New Year’s Eve celebrations in a square near Milan's cathedral to file complaints with police.
Several women have told authorities they were groped by young men that night. As of Friday, at least five women, including two Germans, had reported they were surrounded by dozens of Italian and foreign men in Milan’s Duomo square or on nearby streets.
The reports evoked recollections of a spate of sexual assaults near the cathedral and central train station in Cologne, Germany on Dec. 31, 2015 and Jan. 1, 2016. Those assaults heightened tensions over migration to Germany because most of the men identified as suspects were foreigners.
German police were criticized for their handling of the situation, and Cologne's police chief at the time was removed.
In Milan, women alleged that they were shoved and groped, daily newspaper Corriere della Sera reported Saturday. One woman, who had her sweater torn and her pants pulled down, suffered scrapes, Corriere della Sera said. Police took her to a hospital for examination.
The newspaper said officers came to one woman's rescue, but in another incident, Corriere della Sera quoted a German woman as saying nearby police didn’t respond to cries for help.
According to Italian media, the German women filed their complaints after they returned to Germany.
Riccardo De Corato, the security commissioner for Lombardy, the region which includes Milan, urged any other women who were molested to contact Italian prosecutors.
Police who are investigating the assaults have been studying video images to try to identify the attackers.
Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese expressed hope Friday that “that those responsible for the molestations and violence be handed over to justice as soon as possible.” She called for every effort to ensure similar “deplorable behaviors” don't happen again.