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Policemen and fans injured in Croat and Muslim clashes

Up to 20 Bosnian policemen and nine football supporters were injured - some seriously - in clashes in several towns populated by both Croats and Muslims following Turkey's remarkable Euro 2008 quarter-final win over Croatia.

sports Updated: Jun 21, 2008 19:55 IST

Up to 20 Bosnian policemen and nine football supporters were injured - some seriously - in clashes in several towns populated by both Croats and Muslims following Turkey's remarkable Euro 2008 quarter-final win over Croatia on Friday.

Police sources told AFP that the trouble was sparked after Turkey had beaten the Croats 3-1 on penalties - having equalised at 1-1 with the last kick of the game.

"Twenty policemen and nine supoorters were injured, some of them seriously, in clashes between the police and the two opposing camps after the football match," a police spokesman Srecko Bosnjak told AFP.

He added that the clashes had come in Mostar, Stolac and Capljina, to the south of the country but that the worst had been in Mostar, where Bosnian muslims and Croats had fought a bloody battle during the Balkan War between 1992 and 1995.

"Police made 29 arrests, including 16 in Mostar," said Bosnjak.

The security forces had deployed a 1,000 policemen in Mostar alone - mostly along the main avenue that separates the two communities - and had come between the two sets of hooligans to prevent them getting at each other.

As a result the police became the target of their ire as they hurled stones, bottles, concrete blocks and chairs belonging to local cafes.

"We succeeded in our primary objective, that is to say to prevent direct clashes between the two different groups of supporters," said Bosnjak, who nonetheless deplored the violence "which had been planned for several days".

According to him the hooligans had damaged several police cars and broken shop windows of shops, restaurants and bars in the Mostar city centre and of other cars parked in the nearby streets.

The Muslim communities in both Mostar and Sarajevo celebrated the Turkish victory by draping themselves in the Turkey national flag of red with a white crescent, or drove through the cities in columns honking their horns.

Bosnian Croat football fans always cheer on the national team of Croatia, which most of them consider as their homeland, while Muslims generally support their opponents.

Many Bosnian Muslims also support Turkey in international competitions because of the ties going back to five centuries of Ottoman rule in the Balkans.

Mostar remains divided between the two ethnic communities almost 13 years since the end of Bosnia's war. Ethnic tensions still simmer, and the town has been the scene of violence during major football matches in recent years.

In 2006, after a World Cup match between Croatia and Brazil, one person was seriously wounded by gunfire and six police officers hurt in clashes between Croat and Muslim fans in Mostar.