In the eastern city of Leipzig in Germany well over 2,000 anti-Muslim Legida protestors took to the streets on Monday 11 January, their ranks swelled by anger over the Cologne attacks. They yelled "Merkel needs to go!" and one carried a sign featuring Merkel wearing a hijab and the words: 'Merkel take your Muslims with you and get lost'. Legida is the Leipzig arm of the anti-Islam movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida).

The demonstration takes place after the violence in Cologne, in which 121 women are reported to have been robbed, threatened or sexually molested by gangs of men, many of them foreigners. The attacks have triggered a furious debate about Chancellor Angela Merkel's immigration policy, which saw 1.1m asylum seekers come to Germany last year, the bulk of them from Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan.

Legida protester Olaf Spermer said: "Especially what annoyed us in the past weeks and months was the whole situation regarding foreigners, that how things were handled and not only I, but many people think that it will all end in a very bad way."

A police spokeswoman said there was a roughly equal number of counter-demonstrators, who held candles and asked for better integration measures.

"We should in no way generalise. But it is also important that we all take part in the integration process. [What happened in Cologne] should not be underestimated but still we should not blame the bigger crowd for what a small group did," Miriam Schoene, who had joined the demonstration with a friend, said.

Earlier in the day, Cologne police said at least 11 foreigners, including Pakistanis, Guineans and Syrians, had been injured on 10 January in attacks by hooligans bent on revenge for the assaults in the city.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere condemned those attacks and warned against a broader backlash against refugees following the events in Cologne, which have deepened scepticism towards Merkel's policy of welcoming migrants.