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By The Associated Press

BERLIN — Police in Cologne say they've detained hundreds of men "seemingly of African descent" as part of operations to prevent a repeat of the attacks seen in the German city a year ago.

Cologne police say the men were detained at two main train stations so that officers could question them and check their identities.

Authorities fielded over 1,500 officers across Cologne for New Year's celebrations in response to criticism that they failed to stop hundreds of robberies and sexual assaults — blamed largely on men of North African origin — last year.

Related: Cologne Police: Roving Packs Sexually Assaulted Dozens on New Year's Eve 2015

Some revelers this year complained on Twitter that authorities appeared to be detaining people based on their appearance alone — a claim that Cologne Police Chief Juergen Mathies denied.

"I reject this negative criticism," Mathies told reporters Sunday. "The clear aim was to prevent similar events to previous year."

By early Sunday police had received reports of two women being sexually assaulted in Cologne. One man was arrested.

German police officers checking incoming people from North Africa in front of the Central Station in Cologne, Germany, 31 December 2016.RONALD WITTEK / EPA