AREZZO, Italy, Nov 11 (Reuters) A policeman accidentally shot dead a soccer fan today during a confrontation between supporters of rival clubs in Italy, police said.
The shooting took place after Lazio and Juventus supporters clashed at a motorway restaurant near the Tuscan city of Arezzo.
''It was a tragic error,'' the police chief in Arezzo, Vincenzo Giacobbe, said in a statement. ''Our agent intervened to prevent the scuffles between two small groups of people (...) from degenerating,'' he said.
''I express my deep grief and sincere condolences to the family of the victim.'' A senior police source in Rome said the victim, 25-year-old Gabriele Sandri, was killed inside a car of Lazio fans when a policeman from a patrol stationed nearby opened fire to stop the clashes.
''The policeman said he shot in the air. It will be up to the investigators to establish that,'' the source told Reuters.
The car was taken away for inspection by police and the parking lot outside the motorway restaurant was cordoned off, witnesses said.
Italy's football league postponed Lazio's match with champions Inter Milan, which had been due to kick off at 1930IST after soccer officials held urgent talks with the government.
The rest of the top Serie A league programme, including a Juventus match at Parma, was rescheduled to start 10 minutes late, it said.
Scuffles between fans and police erupted at the stadium in the northern city of Bergamo as news of the death of the Lazio fan spread. Two policemen were slightly injured, local police said.
Italy is battling a serious soccer hooligan problem and suspended all soccer for a period in February when a policeman was killed in riots outside a top-flight match in Catania.
Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said he had been informed of the incident and told reporters: ''Certainly these events are very worrying.'' Sporadic violence has continued in recent months despite the security crackdown prompted by February's incident.
Officials said last month that fan injuries caused by violence around stadiums had been cut by 80 percent from last season but that it was difficult to combat violence away from the grounds.
REUTERS AB YA HT2114