Violence grows as German fans riot

World Cup: Toulouse braces itself for the English invasion as police officer left in a coma after Lens clashes
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The Independent Online
FURTHER VIOLENCE blighted the World Cup football tournament yesterday as German hooligans clashed with French police before and after the match against Yugoslavia.

One officer was left in a coma after being struck on the head with an iron bar by a German supporter as further violence erupted after the match.

Gangs throwing beer cans, tables and chairs fought running battles with police before kickoff in Lens, northern France. The French police officer, Daniel Nivel, 44, was left lying on the pavement in a pool of blood. The officer, who is married with two children, was given emergency treatment before being flown by helicopter to a hospital in Lille. Police said the man who attacked the officer had been arrested.

The prefect of the Pas de Calais department said the officer, who was guarding a police bus, had been the victim of a "savage and cowardly" attack from behind.

A Brazilian television cameraman was also injured in clashes, but was said to be not seriously hurt.

Altogether 96 fans - mostly German - were detained after clashes with riot police. Six of the hooligans were immediately deported. Another 15 were placed under formal investigation - one step short of being charged.

The rioting by German fans has increased fears of more violence when England play against Colombia in Lens on Friday. Police say French hooligans are planning to travel to Lens, where they may be joined by Germans and Belgians.

Yesterday's fighting began when German supporters drinking in cafes attacked some of the 700 police on duty. Around 450 skinheads were seen on the streets of Lens before and after the match giving Nazi salutes.

Police said that the hooligans, some of whom are known to German police as neo-Nazis, were "organised and operating as a gang".

A French police spokesman contrasted the clashes with the rioting by English fans in Marseille last week. He said the German hooligans were "for the most part sober - not like the ones in Marseilles. They didn't come to support their team. They came to smash things up, to attack security forces."

Before the match, more than 20 German skinheads were detained by officers who used sticks to battle against hooligans. Riot police brought in reinforcements and sealed off the town centre for several hours as bar and restaurant owners closed early, fearing their premises would be damaged by hooligans.

Police patrolled the town in cars throughout the evening, although the trouble had subsided by nightfall.

German police sources said there were up to 1,000 German hooligans classified as the worst sort of troublemakers in town for the game.

Many German fans who had been the victims of a ticket swindle had come to Lens despite not being able to get into the match, which ended in a draw of 2-2.

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