Turkish police were questioning five men last night and hunting two others in connection with the murder of two British football fans during clashes in Istanbul on Wednesday. One seriously injured fan remains in hospital.
During a day of tension in the city Leeds United fans were confined to their hotels, many of which had armed guards to prevent more disturbances. Further arrangements were put in place to separate Leeds fans from supporters of their opponents, Galatasaray, before, during and after last night's Uefa Cup semi-final clash. The match itself passed off peacefully as Leeds were defeated 2-0 by the Turkish champions.
It was only after a night of discussions between Uefa officials and Leeds that it was decided the game at the Ali Sami Yen stadium should go ahead. The Leeds chairman, Peter Ridsdale, said: "The decision has been taken in recognition of the fact that any delay in rescheduling the fixture would merely heighten the tension." But Leeds cancelled a flight of supporters who had been due to travel from Yorkshire to see the match.
As recriminations and rumours flew as to how the violence in Istanbul started, Tony Blair appealed to British fans to remain calm. A Downing Street spokesman said: "We would add our voices to those who are appealing for calm ahead of tonight's game."
But in Istanbul, as the fans were confined to their hotels on a hot day, tension rose as they spent the hours before the match drinking. One of them, John Moth, said: "There's nothing else to do here all day."
A violent response to the incident by Leeds supporters was encouraged by at least one website, hosted by a known football hooligan, which carried messages calling for revenge.
The Foreign Office confirmed that eight out of 13Turkish men who were arrested in connection with theviolence had been released. The remaining five were being held in connection with the killings, while a further two suspects remained at large, a spokesman said.
In a separate development, Mr Ridsdale urged Galatasaray fans not to travel to Leeds for the return leg in two weeks.
In Leeds, a steady flow of people arrived at the club's ground, Elland Road, to pay tribute to the supporters who were stabbed to death. Kevin Speight, 40, who was married with two young children, and Christopher Loftus, 37, were described as dedicated fans and not the sort of people to look for trouble. A family member said of Mr Speight: "Kevin was such a family man. It has just shattered his mother, wife and children."
The National Criminal Intelligence Service's football unit said any relevant information about possible violence had been passed to the Turks.
A Galatasaray spokesman said the violence had not involved the club's supporters. The secretary, Sinan Kalpakcioglu, said: "It was an ordinary criminal situation."
Before last night's tie kicked off, fans and players observed a minute's silence. An announcer said: "Galatasaray offer sincere condolences for the tragic events ... and condemn all acts of violence that serve only to disgrace the name of football." The Leeds team wore black armbands; Galatasaray declined to do so.Reuse content