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Germans Arrest 120 Before World Cup Game

June 14, 2006

DORTMUND, Germany (AP) _ At least 120 German hooligans were arrested Wednesday after clashing with police before a World Cup game between Germany and Poland, authorities said.

Police said it began when officers spotted a crowd of men known to be hardcore hooligans in a central square.

One witness said police blocked the route between about 40 men drinking at an outdoor restaurant and a big screen about two blocks away where the evening game was to be shown.

Police began pulling out the men one by one, according to witness Cristel Lorenz, and the men began screaming, ``We are Germans, too. We want to go to the big screen.″

The men began throwing bottles and chairs and shooting fireworks; backup police in riot gear arrived, as did more hooligans, said Lorenz, whom police pulled to the safety of a nearby restaurant.

After detaining the men, police patted them down and hauled them into a bus outfitted with individual cells. There were at least 15 police cars and 200 officers in the area. One police helicopter hovered over the square.

Police said no officers were injured. At least one hooligan was seen receiving treatment for facial cuts. Police said several had injuries and that no bystanders were hurt.

Afterward, scattered incidents occurred in the city center between Germans and Poles, said police spokeswoman Ute Hellmann.

The initial clash began about two hours before kickoff and was about 2 miles from the stadium, where German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Polish President Lech Kaczynski watched a game laden with symbolism given Germany’s World War II invasion of its neighbor.

In a separate incident, German hooligans also attacked police near the jumbo screen that shows soccer games in the 32-team tournament. No other details were immediately available.

For much of the day, German police had been working with their Polish counterparts to identify and arrest Polish hooligans from the throngs massing for the match between the neighboring countries. At least 60 Poles were arrested and did not offer resistance, police said.

That operation started early and included four men found to have knives near the stadium, police said.

``Our Polish spotters identified them as their troublemakers from back home,″ Dortmund police spokeswoman Saskia Schneider said.

Under German law, people can be held up to 48 hours if police think they may commit a crime.

The threat of hooliganism has been a security theme at the tournament. A recent spate of violence in Poland raised fears of violence from the country’s fans, though there were few reported disturbances after their team’s 2-0 loss to Ecuador last week.

Last week, German police increased checks on the Polish border. A special train taking several hundred Polish fans to Dortmund also carried Polish and German police, said Rafal Wasiak, the spokesman for Polish police working in Germany.

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