Cologne’s police chief has denied accusations of racial profiling after the force tweeted they had detained hundreds of North African men to prevent a repeat of last year’s mass sex attack. The men had gathered late on Saturday near Cologne’s main train station and in the Deutz district, across the Rhine river. Police described them as being “Nafris” – a colloquial term for North Africans – which prompted furious online criticism as it suggested the men had been arrested on the basis of their appearance alone. Police Chief Juergen Mathies said: "I reject this negative criticism. The clear aim was to prevent similar events to previous year." He said that of 650 people detained for identity checks, almost all were from North African countries and claimed: "Their characteristics were such that potential crimes could indeed be expected". The force had been instructed to intervene early to avoid a similar situation to last year where over 1,000 women in the city were mugged, harassed and sexual assaulted. In the weeks following the attacks, the city’s then police chief Wolfgang Albers was suspended from his post after the force was accused of initially trying to downplay the attacks.