Euro 2016: Violence breaks out in Marseille as England fans chant 'Isis, where are you?'

Hundreds of England fans and French football hooligans fought running battles through the streets of Marseille last night as police fired tear gas when violence flared ahead of the team’s opening Euro 2016 match.

Riot police armed with machine guns and accompanied by dogs battled to contain the fighting in the historic city’s Old Port – the site of three days of violent clashes nearly 20 years ago during the 1998 World Cup.

One English fan, believed to be in his 30s, was seriously hurt after being struck in the head with a wooden chair when trouble began late last night.

He was seen lying on the pavement in a pool of blood being cradled by fellow England fans.

Watch: England fans clash with locals and police in Marseille

Others hurled missiles and threw punches and kicks as café owners and restaurants locked their doors to keep customers safe.

The fighting was said to be between the English fans and a group of hooligans known as the Marseille “ultras”.

Local French youths are thought to have attacked England supporters who had massed outside the Queen Victoria pub, and O'Malley's, an Irish bar next door, on the quayside.


Running battles: a fan is led away by police in Marseille (Jeremy Selwyn)

Chris Lord, an England fan from London, said: “This was a really nasty attack. The gang knew exactly where we were, and clearly wanted to hurt us.”


Ready for kick-off: Fans by an Irish pub in Marseille (Jeremy Selwyn)

Others spoke of their fear as they were targeted by youths brandishing makeshift weapons, and shouting “Get the English”.

Another witness claimed hooligans had retaliated after a Muslim Arab – believed to be a ticket tout - was apparently targeted by English fans.

The fighting erupted just after midnight after scores of drunken fans packed into two bars on the waterfront, singing anti-IRA songs and chants of “ISIS, ISIS, where are you?”, throwing pints of beer and small fireworks as armed officers surrounded them.

Police spotters from Northamptonshire constabulary, working with the French gendarmerie, were also on hand to film and identify troublemakers as bemused locals looked on.

But the atmosphere turned violent before heavily armed police were drafted in to quell the trouble.


Ready for kick-off: England fans in Marseille (Jeremy Selwyn)

They were the first wave of supporters to arrive in Marseille ahead of England’s opening Euro 2016 game with Russia tomorrow.

Many headed to bars in the old town, drinking in blazing sunshine from lunchtime as temperatures soared to 30 degrees.

The violence will be a concern to city officials and security chiefs as hundreds of thousands more fans are expected to descend on Marseille today, putting the huge police security operation to the test.

As well as a possible terrorist attack, security officials are also keen to avoid a repeat of the infamous 1998 “Battle of Marseille” when English hooligans went on the rampage in the city.

The district police chief in charge of all security issues in Marseille today warned any troublemakers would face "exemplary punishment".


Police presence: officers with dogs in Marseille (Jeremy Selwyn)

Laurent Nunez, police chief of Bouches-du-Rhône county, said any unrest from fans would be quelled with the “the utmost determination” from security forces.

He told the Standard: “Supporters coming to Marseille are invited to conform to security regulations in order to contribute to the festival and to enjoy it fully. Hooligans who are responsible for violence or who cause public disorder will be treated with the utmost rigour, both by the security forces and by the justice system.

“In this regard, the Procureur (Chief Law officer) of Marseilles has announced that henceforth if there are any infractions he will demand immediate exemplary punishments.”

It follows warnings from a range of security agencies, ranging from the U.S. State Department to French police that Islamic State terrorists are planning to strike.

Marseille commander Laurent Nunez said the Three Lions' opening match against Russia on Saturday was also "a particularly high risk" as fire as football-related violence was concerned.

France remains under a State of Emergency following last November's attack, with thousands of soldiers joining police on the streets.

On Sunday, French President Francois Hollande said that the threat of trouble would not stop the European Championships from being successful.



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