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Police officer dies after clashes at Athletic Bilbao vs. Spartak Moscow game

A police officer has died as rival fans violently clashed before a European soccer game between Spanish club Athletic...

Posted: Feb. 23, 2018 12:59 PM
Updated: Feb. 23, 2018 12:59 PM

A police officer has died as rival fans violently clashed before a European soccer game between Spanish club Athletic Bilbao and Russian team Spartak Moscow.

In a statement, Ertzaintza regional police said Inocencio Alonso Garc-a, 51, died after suffering a cardiac arrest, following the clashes between supporters of Athletic and Spartak outside the Basque club's San Mames stadium before their Europa League game.

According to police, several people had turned up to the game with batons and knives. At least nine people have been arrested.

After the game, Athletic tweeted: "Our deepest condolences to the family and companions of the deceased agent today.

"Athletic Club shows its strongest rejection of the violence generated around football."

Footage of the clashes showed supporters aiming fireworks at each other on the streets.

David Vilumbrales, an Athletic supporter, tweeted a video from the scene saying: "Several injured in Bilbao. We were attacked by the Spartak ultras with golf balls and bottles and the ambulance does not arrive."

"I was caught by surprise," Vilumbrales told CNN, adding that fireworks, bottles, and golf balls were all thrown by Spartak "ultras."

"I wanted to go to San Mam-s Stadium on the safest street, Alamedo Urquijo, and I ran into a pitched battle all-against-all without police.

"Everything was very confusing and the police did not distinguish Athletic Bilbao's fans from the Spartak because they all wear the same colors. The ultras were prepared in groups of 30 people and attacked us three times."

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, offered his condolences to Garcia and his family on Twitter.

"My condolences to the family and friends of the policeman who died in Bilbao and my consideration to the Ertzaintza for its efforts to protect those who do enjoy sport. I condemn in the most energetic way the violent events," he tweeted.

CNN has contacted Spartak for comment.

In a statement, UEFA said it "strongly condemns the violent clashes which occurred on Thursday night."

"We are in contact with local authorities to obtain further information on these incidents

"UEFA sends its sincere condolences to the family and colleagues of the police officer who passed away tonight. "

Spain's Football Federation has announced plans for a minute's silence at all upcoming matches.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos tweeted: "Football, sport and society cannot remain indifferent to violence, fear and the loss of life. We must force change."

Russia World Cup

The incident once again places a spotlight on Russian hooliganism ahead of this year's World Cup which Russia is hosting.

Russian hooligans caused trouble during the 2016 European Championship finals in France, clashing with rival supporters.

Both Russia and England were threatened with expulsion from the tournament following clashes between rival fans in Marseille.

Earlier Thursday, German police said they had arrested a Russian football hooligan for attacking an England fan during Euro 2016.

Read: Dozens injured as crowds of rival fans brawl

The suspect was arrested en route from Moscow to Bilbao where he was traveling to watch the game between Athletic and Spartak.

Spartak won the game 2-1, but Athletic progressed to the last-16 courtesy of a 4-3 aggregate victory.

The Europa League is UEFA's second tier club competition.

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