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The BBC's Daniella Relph
"The Belgian police have moved in quickly"
 real 28k

The BBC's Ben Brown
"This evening there was tension in Charleroi"
 real 28k

Saturday, 17 June, 2000, 00:55 GMT 01:55 UK
Fans battle with Belgian police

Police snatch squads target troublemakers in Brussels
Belgian police have arrested 174 England fans after clashes erupted in Brussels ahead of the Euro 2000 match between England and Germany.

The authorities say they will try to deport 139 of the fans arrested on Friday for public order offences as soon as possible.


The cells are very welcoming

Major Michel Rompen

The remaining 35 could face jail terms for vandalism and fighting.

Police fired tear gas at the fans and plain-clothed snatch squads made arrests as part of their zero tolerance policy towards football troublemakers at the tournament.

England fans were also involved in skirmishes in Charleroi where the match will be held on Saturday.

Barricades

Trouble in Brussels is believed to have started after police closed an Irish pub in the Place de la Bourse, a few hundred yards from the city's centrepiece, Grand Place.

Riot police fired tear gas into the bar to force out rowdy England fans who had barricaded themselves inside, chanting and throwing chairs and beer bottles at police.

Trouble in Charleroi on Friday
Rioting fans in Charleroi used chairs as ammunition

Officers wrestled fans to the ground as they spilled out of the bar, with many holding their hands to their mouths and some vomiting from the effects of the tear gas.

About 300 Belgian riot police, working with official English "spotters", operated in squads to snatch targeted troublemakers.

The England fans were also reported to be well organised, operating with spotters of their own to target rival fans and media.

Some of the fans threw beer, cans and plastic cups at passing cars and shop windows were smashed.

Trouble in Charleroi

But one fan said a minority was to blame.

"I know we have a reputation but it is not all of us," said English fan George Scotland.

Belgian riot police
Belgian police have promised zero tolerance if there is trouble on Saturday

"I have a ticket for the Charleroi game but it is making me think twice about going."

Trouble also flared in Charleroi between England supporters, local Turks and German fans.

Tables and chairs were tossed over and bar owners rushed to close the doors of their premises as England supporters dashed across the square.

About 50 riot squad police moved in quickly to stop the trouble. One English supporter was stabbed and another suffered a gash to his head after being struck with a hammer.

Zero tolerance

Police promised the same zero-tolerance approach on Saturday.

They have created special holding cells that can contain hundreds of fans if necessary.

England fans in Brussels
Thousands of England fans are expected to turn up for the match on Saturday

"The cells are very welcoming," warned Major Michel Rompen, a police spokesman.

Eight prosecutors will be on duty to put troublemakers quickly behind bars.

Some reports have said that up to 40,000 English fans could cross the Channel for the match at the 30,000-seat Stade du Pays de Charleroi stadium, a site considered far too small for one of Euro 2000's hottest games.

Fascists frustrated

Earlier on Friday the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) in London had said that around 60 people have now been refused entry to Belgium, Holland or Germany during the tournament.

These included three members of Combat 18, a fascist group, who were turned back from Brussels airport today after flying from Heathrow.

The three are believed to have over 60 convictions between them for a variety of public order and violence offences.

A group of 22 Barnsley fans who had flown to Dusseldorf in Germany from Manchester were also sent back on Friday.

An NCIS spokesman said: "We are very pleased with the co-operation we are receiving from the authorities in Western Europe. The football hooligans are venting their fury on web sites at the hassle they are receiving at ports and airports."

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