A member of the Basque police force Ertzaintza has died after suffering a heart attack during a confrontation with the extremist supporters of the Russian soccer team Spartak Moscow in Bilbao. The riot police officer Inocencio Alonso was transferred to the Basurto Hospital but doctors were unable to revive him and he died just over an hour later.
Hospital authorities say the 51-year-old did “not present any type of trauma.” The deputy security minister for the Basque region, Josu Zubiaga said that “all indicates that no direct violent contact led to the death,” in a statement to Cadena Ser. An autopsy is pending to confirm the exact cause of death.
The heart attack occurred during violent clashes outside the San Mamés stadium before the soccer game between Basque team Athletic Bilbao and Spartak Moscow. The Ertzaintza were escorting a number of Russian supporters from the Moyua plaza square to separate them from rival fans. More violent Spartak fans appeared and began to throw flares, bottles, rocks and garbage bins. Bars bordering the stadium esplanade quickly closed their doors to stop the violence from escalating.
Three people were injured (two with head traumas and one with an arm injury) and nine arrested. The Basque police force was able to disperse the violent group but minutes later they saw Alonso had gone into cardiac arrest during the effort to restore order.
Despite the violence, the match went ahead as planned with Spartak winning the game 2-1.
Massive security operation
In the lead up to the game, 600 police agents (500 regional officers and 100 municipal officers) were deployed to beef up the 200 permanent security guards from Athletic Bilbao – largest police deployment in Bilbao. The security operation was designed to contain the hooligan fans of Spartak Moscow who began arriving in the Basque region on Tuesday. Police sources had said the situation was “under control.”
The presence of more than 1,000 Russian fans without entry into the game put security forces on alert. There were concerns they would try to enter the game as had happened in the match between Champions and Sevilla – a situation which did eventuate.
The night previous to the match there were also small scuffles that required the intervention of the municipal or regional police force. A school close to the San Mamés stadium also recommended parents keep their children at home on Thursday to avoid potential problems.
English version by Melissa Kitson.