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Photos help police nab New Year sex assault suspects

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Cologne on New Year's Eve. Photo: DPA.
16:28 CET+01:00
UPDATE: Cologne police have arrested two men suspected of being connected to the assaults on women on New Year's Eve, less than a day after releasing their photos.

Police arrested two men in connection with a night of crime during New Year's Eve celebrations in Cologne linked mainly to men of North African origin, officials announced on Wednesday.

A 26-year-old man was arrested in Kerpen, 30 kilometres outside Cologne, accused of sexual assault and attempted robbery for reportedly surrounding and groping women, along with others.

Police said they had been tipped off by local residents about the man, of Algerian origin. 

Another 31-year-old man in Hamm turned himself in, saying he was one of the men pictured in photos released by police on Tuesday.

Police must still determine whether the two men arrested are in fact the suspects they were looking for and both have been brought to Cologne.

Cologne police had posted images of five men they suspected of surrounding and harassing women on New Year's Eve night, before trying to steal from them.

Photo: Cologne police/DPA.

"Despite the alarming situation, we managed to find more witnesses and victims with photos of the suspects," the police wrote on Tuesday.

Some of the photos came from security cameras, others from witnesses, police say.

Authorities are asking for people who recognize the men and know where they live to report to police.

Police on Wednesday also released photos of two men who they say shot an unknown firearm into the air while part of the crowd celebrating on New Year's around the city's central train station. Cologne public prosecutors said this could constitute a weapons violation.

"It is only thanks to chance that no one was hurt," said Cologne public prosecutor Ulrich Bremer.

Photo: Cologne police

Some 1,100 complaints were filed in the wake of the attacks, and prosecutors are currently investigating 108 suspects, 13 of whom are in custody. 

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About 40 per cent of the complaints were of crimes of a sexual nature ranging from harassment to rape.

The New Year's Eve attacks sparked a debate in Germany about how to deal with asylum seekers found guilty of crimes and the country's ability to integrate the 1.1 million migrants who arrived in 2015.

A man found guilty of committing petty theft on New Year's Eve was the first to receive a verdict in connection to the events in the city on the banks of the Rhine, being convicted to 6 months suspended jail time.

The city's police chief has said that there is no evidence that the attacks that night were organized.

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