Rival fans clash in Copenhagen

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The Independent Online

Police fired tear gas in a city square to disperse rowdy British and Turkish fans who were throwing bottles ahead of the UEFA Cup final between Galatasaray of Turkey and Arsenal, a match already marred by overnight clashes and the stabbing of an Arsenal fan.

Police fired tear gas in a city square to disperse rowdy British and Turkish fans who were throwing bottles ahead of the UEFA Cup final between Galatasaray of Turkey and Arsenal, a match already marred by overnight clashes and the stabbing of an Arsenal fan.

Hundreds of Turkish fans decked out in red and yellow Galatasaray jerseys were rushing around the square, just yards from Copenhagen's landmark amusement park Tivoli gardens, while helmeted riot police struggled to gain control of the situation. A crowd of them was threatening an English pub, where British fans were gathered.

Details were sketchy, but helmeted riot police had surrounded another outdoor cafe, where they were trying to keep the rowdy fans from picking up chairs to throw at them.

The outburst broke out during rush hour, miring the downtown traffic.

Several groups of Turkish fans and some Danes were gathered on the City Hall Square, where the overnight clashes occurred, but police were forming a line and pushing people away to clear the area.

It was not clear how the melee began in the late afternoon but the private Turkish television station NTV reported that fans had been taunting each other and throwing chairs and other debris, private Turkish television NTV reported. Few police were on the square when the violence began but appeared shortly afterward and fired the tear gas.

Several people appeared to be injured, but police were not giving any details.

The owner of a snackbar on the square who refused to give his name said a group of people wearing Galatasaray jerseys attacked an English fan with a still-bloody chair from a cafe and he was taken away in an ambulance.

The mood in the Danish capital has been tense all day after early morning fighting that broke out on another main square, injuring eight people and resulting in the arrests of four Britons and six Turks. Three of the Britons arrested were not residents of Denmark and were being expelled from the country, police spokesman Flemming Steen Munch said.

An Arsenal fan remained in hospital Wednesday after he had received a stabbing that punctured his lung, police chief Ove Dahl said. The man, who was not identified in line with Danish practice, was not in a life-threatening condition.

At least 24,000 Turkish and British fans have flocked to Copenhagen to watch Galatasaray take on Arsenal Wednesday night. Galatasaray is trying to become the first Turkish club to win one of Europe's two major club championships.

The game has been classified as high risk by soccer officials, partly because of fears that British hooligans may attempt to avenge the killing of two English fans last month on the eve of Leeds' first-leg semifinal in Istanbul against Galatasaray.

Police were conducting Denmark's most extensive ever in connection with a soccer match, with approximately 2,000 officers - 20 percent of Denmark's total police force - dispatched for the game. They were being assisted by some two dozen policemen came from Britain, Turkey and other European countries.

For much of the day, Danes were mingling in a sea of red and yellow Galatasaray jerseys and red and white Arsenal shirts and flags that filled the city's busy pedestrian street, Stroeget, Wednesday but spirits that were high as fans started to arrived the day before seemed dampened by the fighting.

"I'm very sad, I'm sorry," said Serdar Altinsoek, a 37-year-old banker who traveled from Ankara, the Turkish capital, for the game.

Police said earlier Wednesday they had no plans to increase the already extensive security.

"The events don't change anything. We're sticking to our original plan," Munch said. "We'll be heavily present tonight."

The Arsenal club offered to reimburse fans for the match and plane tickets if they were concerned about going to the Danish capital, but several strollers said they had declined the offer.

In Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit urged the soccer fans to avoid violence.

"Sports should be an initiative for friendship, not for fighting," Ecevit said at a news conference.

Police were not certain what exactly triggered the fighting that broke out at about 1 a.m.

Dozens of Turkish fans attacked a pub in which English fans had been spending much of the evening. Helmeted riot police moved in quickly but rioters began running around one of the city's main squares, approaching another bar.

Many English fans responded by rushing out of the bars and people were throwing bottles and chairs at each other and fighting.

At one point, four Arsenal fans kneeled over the man who had been stabbed and was writhing on the ground in pain, his shirt drenched in blood. The supporters were using their shirts to help stench the blood and tried to shield him from photographers.

"We don't think what happened last night has anything to do with (soccer) hooliganism," Munch told The Associated Press. "This could have happened during a rock concert or anytime when you have a lot of people on a limited spot."

Some 24,000 tickets were sold in Turkey and Britain, and more than 11,000 in other European countries.

Outside the Parken stadium, 1.7 miles of fence has been erected to keep British and Turkish supporters separated before and after the match.

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