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Police arrests following riots in Brussels during Belgium-Morocco World Cup match
Brussels police made a dozen administrative arrests and one judicial arrest after Sunday’s riots in the city centre sparked by the World Cup match between Belgium and Morocco.
Additional arrests could follow after the identification of other suspects on video surveillance footage, said Brussels Capital-Ixelles police, reports Bruzz.
Riot police used water canons and tear gas against a group of Morocco fans after violence broke out during the match, which Belgium lost (0-2).
It started near Palais du Midi where dozens of young fans came together, some with a Moroccan flag on their backs, according to RTBF.
The mood changed when Morocco’s opening goal was disallowed. Tension rose among the crowd of around 150 youngsters, now gathered between Gard du Midi and the Bourse. A bin was set on fire, firecrackers set off, a car and rental scooters smashed.
Water cannons and tear gas deployed
Around 100 police officers intervened, deploying water cannons to disperse the group, sometimes clashing with rioters. Roads and metro stations were closed briefly in the city centre on police orders.
“Dozens of people, some of whom were hooded, sought confrontation with the police, which compromised public safety," police said in a press release, justifying their use of water cannons and tear gas.
An RTBF journalist was injured in the face by fireworks and other staff were insulted and abused while covering the incidents. The public broadcaster said it would be filing a police report. Moroccan fans celebrating their team’s victory, spontaneously came to the assistance of the RTBF crews, distancing themselves from the thugs and condemning their actions, said the broadcaster.
RTL Info said that a journalist and cameraman were physically assaulted while reporting. The cameraman received several blows and his equipment damaged and stolen before the pair took refuge in a nearby store.
A vehicle belonging to the Brussels Fire Brigade was damaged, reported Bruzz. "One of our ambulances has been stoned near Boulevard Lemonnier," said spokesman Walter Derieuw. "We find it incomprehensible and Kafkaesque that the emergency services have to count on the police to work in peace and safe."
Calm was restored in the city around 19.00, said police. Disturbances had also taken place in Anderlecht, Schaerbeek and Molenbeek Saint-Jean.
Mayor condemns riots
Brussels mayor Philippe Close (PS) told RTBF that the strong police intervention was deliberate. "We anticipated that incidents might occur. Our strategy was to confine them to a single thoroughfare for 200 to 300 meters. It worked, they weren't able to go to the shopping areas and the Christmas market. That was really our goal."
He had harsh words for the rioters. "These are thugs, scoundrels who come expressly to create incidents, regardless of the score of the match. We need the greatest firmness in the face of this," said Close.
Disturbances in Antwerp and Liège
Unrest also occurred in the cities of Antwerp and Liège. Around 50 people attacked the Droixhe police station on Sunday evening, according to Liège police, reports RTBF. Windows were smashed and service vehicle lights were damaged in the wake of the football match.
Elsewhere, a large luminous bear in Place Saint-Lambert fell under the weight of supporters who climbed on it. The installation was part of the main square’s Christmas market decorations. Damage was also reported in other areas of the Walloon city.
Photo: © Belga/Nicolas Maeterlinck