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World - Europe

One critically wounded during Rotterdam soccer riot

April 26, 1999
Web posted at: 7:44 a.m. EDT (1144 GMT)

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands (CNN) -- Rioting soccer fans may have returned fire at police during a clash in central Rotterdam Sunday night in which police shot into the crowd, wounding four people, Dutch officials said Monday.

One of four men shot by police during a riot by Feyenoord Rotterdam soccer fans was in a critical condition in a hospital, officials said.

Police, threatened by the rioters, fired several warning shots and were then forced to fire into the crowd, a spokesman said.

Sixteen people were injured, including four police, after celebrations for the local team's national championship turned violent. There were 80 arrests, a police spokesman said.

Hundreds of shop windows in the center of Rotterdam were smashed and the Hilton hotel came under attack. Guests in the lobby threw themselves to the floor as windows shattered.

Police were investigating reports that one pane had been splintered by a fan's bullet.

"That's one of the things we will be looking into, but we can't say for sure yet whether rioters fired weapons," a police spokesman said.

Earlier on Sunday evening, more than 200,000 people had crammed into the center of the port city to cheer the local team, Feyenoord Rotterdam, which had just won the Dutch league championship by tying their match against Breda.

As the crowd dispersed a group 80 or more began throwing stones and bottles at police.

Mounted police repeatedly charged rioters, and other police used water cannons to break up crowds, who left a trail of destruction in their wake in the central city.

"Countless shops have had their display windows smashed in and the contents looted and most of the parked cars have been vandalized," an eyewitness at the scene said.

He said rioters had torn up paving stones and dislodged rubbish bins to hurl at police. One policeman was said to have been injured after being hit in the neck by a stone.

A force of 750 riot police restored order at about midnight. Police said they believed the riots had been planned in advance.

Local and national authorities condemned the fans' behavior. Officials were holding a crisis meeting on Monday.

"This was totally unacceptable. It was supposed to be a celebration for everyone, but this is the picture that people will remember," Rotterdam Mayor Ivo Opstelten said.

The Dutch football association said it had asked the Rotterdam authorities for the names of those involved in the disturbances and was likely to ban them for two years from football matches.

Feyenoord fans have been involved in trouble in the past. Supporters battled police on a visit to Germany for a match in February.

Next year, the Dutch and Belgians co-host the European soccer championships, with Rotterdam as the chief city and location of the final.

Reporter Christopher Hines andReuters contributed to this report.



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