Cologne police chief dismissed after NYE violence

Maja Hitij | AFP | Getty Images

The police chief of Cologne has been relieved of his duties following criticism of his handling of violent clashes in the city on New Year's Eve.

The police chief Wolfgang Albers, 60, was informed by the state interior minister Ralf Jaeger that he would be given early retirement, according to Reuters.

In an announcement made late on Friday Albers said he "understood" the decision of Jaeger and accepted that the leadership of the police, including himself, had become the focus of criticism.

Albers went on to defend the police officers on the ground during the clashes, expressing his "heartfelt respect for their work."

Police have said that roughly a thousand men of foreign descent mugged, threatened and assaulted women in the city center on New Year's Eve. The incident has raised pressure on local police, the state government and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Asylum-seekers are among those suspected of involvement in the violence, officials said on Friday, intensifying the debate about Germany's welcoming of hundreds of thousands of migrants.