German authorities said Monday that nearly all suspects in the New Year's Eve violence against women in Cologne were "of foreign origin", as police blamed far-right thugs for reprisal attacks.

The men who groped and robbed women in the chaotic year-end festivities emerged from a crowd of over 1,000 "Arab and North African" men near Cologne's main railway station, said Ralf Jaeger, interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia state.

Witness accounts and police reports indicated that "nearly all the people who committed these crimes were of foreign origin," including many recently arrived refugees, he said, adding however that still no formal charges had been laid.

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