Cologne police boss regrets New Year tweet on North Africans

Cologne's police chief says he regrets his force's use of the term "Nafris" to describe North Africans in a New Year's Eve tweet, but dismissed suggestions it engaged in racial profiling.

Officers stopped hundreds of North African men heading into downtown Cologne on Saturday to prevent a repeat of sexual assaults that marred New Year's celebrations a year earlier.

The department wrote on Twitter: "Hundreds of Nafris screened at main railway station."

Critics accused police of stopping people on their appearance alone. Opposition Green party co-leader Simone Peter told the Rheinische Post the term "Nafris" was "completely unacceptable."

Police Chief Juergen Matthies said Monday the department has used the term internally since 2013 to describe young North Africans regarded as particularly violent or criminal. He says it wasn't meant for public use.