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Moroccan World Cup celebrations turn violent in Brussels

Morocco’s players celebrate during their World Cup qualifying match against Ivory Coast; some of the fans celebrating their win clashed with riot police in Brussels later that day © AFP / ISSOUF SANOGO

BRUSSELS, Belgium, Nov 12Celebrations turned violent in central Brussels on Saturday, minutes after the qualification of the Moroccan national football team for the next World Cup in Russia, police told Belga news agency.

Riot police were sent out to control a crowd of about 300 people, at one point firing water canon at revelers. At least one car was burned during the incidents, police said.

Videos posted on social media showed tense scenes as riot police tried to block off streets to the fans as other fans chanted joyfully from the steps of the Bourse stock exchange building, a usual spot for sports celebration.

An AFP reporter on the scene said that calm had mostly returned by 2030 GMT, about two hours after the end of the match, though with a heavy police presence remaining.

Morocco defeated Ivory Coast 2-0 on Saturday night in Abidjan to qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, the country’s first appearance at the finals since 1998.

Brussels has a big Moroccan population, many living in the nearby Molenbeek district, which came to international prominence as the home and hideout of planners of the terror attacks in Paris in 2015 and in Brussels last year.

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