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September 30, 2009

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French fan dies in Serbia

A 28-YEAR-OLD French soccer fan died in a Belgrade hospital yesterday after being injured in violence ahead of a Europa League match between Partizan Belgrade and Toulouse earlier this month.

Brice Taton sustained multiple injuries to his head and chest after a group of Partizan fans attacked him with iron bars and baseball bats in a central Belgrade bar on September 17.

"Brice Taton died at 10am this morning," Belgrade's Medical Centre spokesman Drago Jovanovic said.

The violence, during which two other fans were slightly injured, took place several hours before Serbian champion Partizan and French first division side Toulouse played their Group J opener, which Toulouse won 3-2.

Police have arrested 11 assailants, including one they called the main perpetrator.

French Sports Minister Rama Yade issued a statement expressing condolences for the "barbaric" attack on Taton.

"This tragic event has grieved the whole of European football but cannot go unpunished: I call for the greatest severity against those responsible for this murder and I support the efforts of the Serbian authorities," she said.

She said she had been in touch with Belgrade and would speak to UEFA to "evaluate the means needed to protect football against this gangrene that is eating away at it."

Serbian authorities have expressed concern in recent weeks after several attacks on foreigners. At the last minute earlier this month, they withdrew permission for a gay pride rally in central Belgrade amid threats of violence.

Last week Serbia's public prosecutor asked the constitutional court to ban two far-right groups.

Soccer violence was rare in Serbia, and in the rest of Yugoslavia. It erupted after bloody conflicts in the Balkans tore Yugoslavia apart, resulting in what many experts say was a decline in moral and social values.


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