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Tourists held after soldier dies in Cyprus

British passport-holders arrested over stabbing death at nightclub in popular resort town

Three British tourists are being questioned in Cyprus after an off-duty soldier was stabbed to death at a nightclub in the popular resort of Ayia Napa.

The 19-year-old, serving with 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was killed after he and three other soldiers allegedly became involved in an argument with the tourists.

A spokesman for the local police said the fight happened at a club called Black n White in the town’s central square. It is billed as one of Europe’s biggest nightclubs, with regular guest spots from superstar DJs. Radio 1Xtra has also broadcast from there.

According to reports, a knife was produced during the argument at about 3.30am and the soldier was stabbed once in the chest. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Famagusta General Hospital in nearby Paralimni.

Neither the victim nor the alleged perpetrators has been named today, although the dead man’s next of kin had been informed.

A local police spokesman confirmed that all three “boys” arrested had British passports but that two were of Pakistani origin. “There were between five and six people together and one was killed with a knife,” he said. “Three boys from England have been arrested. Two are from Pakistan but they all have British passports. They are being held in custody. It is a very early state in the investigation, however.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said it was offering advice to the accused but was unlikely to release further details due to the “sensitive nature” of the case. He said at least one of the three was under 18.

Connie Pierce, a spokeswoman for Britain’s two military bases in Cyprus, said the incident happened in a part of Ayia Napa that is off limits to British soldiers because of past trouble.

In 1996 three British soldiers were convicted of the 1994 rape and murder of a Danish tour guide, Louise Jensen, 23. They were released on appeal in 2006. In 2008 the mayor of Ayia Napa threatened to ban soldiers from the entire town after a rampage by nine British soldiers caused extensive damage.

The military ban was partially lifted in 2009 to allow daytime visits, but soldiers are still banned from the main square in Ayia Napa. Military police also regularly patrol the tourist spot.

About 3,500 British soldiers are based in Cyprus on two permanent bases, Dhekelia and Akrotiri, retained after the island gained independence in 1960.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman confirmed the soldier’s death today. He said: “The family has been informed and our thoughts are with them. The incident is a matter for the civilian police.”

A party town with a violent history

Each year thousands of young Britons head to Ayia Napa, on the southern coast of Cyprus, attracted by its super-clubs and a reputation for drink-fuelled excess. It is never far from the headlines – often for the behaviour of soldiers stationed at nearby Dhekelia.

In 2008 nine soldiers from 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers were acquitted of going on a rampage. They had allegedly smashed chairs, bottles and glasses in a bar brawl that left two Britons and two locals injured.