cologne attack napad germany police policija njemačka.jpg
Photograph: EPA/MAJA HITIJ

German police have taken into custody two men suspected of sexually assaulting and stealing from women in connection with a crime spree during New Year's Eve celebrations in Cologne.

A 26-year-old Algerian man was arrested in the town of Kerpen on Tuesday, while a 31-year-old gave himself up in nearby Hamm. Police are looking into whether the men are the suspects depicted in photos they released a day before, prompting tip-offs from the public.

Separately, it emerged that two other suspects tied to the events in Cologne shot a gun into the crowd, prompting an investigation into a potential violation of gun laws, Cologne Chief Prosecutor Ulrich Bremer said.

Some 1,100 complaints were filed with Cologne police in the wake of the attacks, which saw groups of men encircling, harassing and stealing from women. About 40 per cent of those were complaints of a sexual nature ranging from harassment to rape.

It is unclear how many men are currently being investigated by police. Most of the perpetrators are thought to have been men of North African descent.

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.

Last month, the first asylum seekers tried in connection with the New Year's Eve attacks were handed suspended sentences for theft, and a third was put on probation. Aged between 18 and 23, the men were of Moroccan and Tunisian descent.

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