Football: Turkish police arrest 72 fans of Besiktas, Fernerbahce, Galatasaray for riots

ANKARA (AFP) - Turkish police Friday detained dozens of football fans after the pitch invasion that caused the abandonment of the weekend's Istanbul football derby between bitter rivals Galatasaray and Besiktas.

"This is an operation targeting fan groups of three football clubs Besiktas, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray," Interior Minister Muammer Guler said in televised remarks.

"Seventy-two fans have been detained so far," he said.

Prosecutors accuse the three Istanbul clubs' fans of looting, possessing arms, aggressive behaviour toward security forces, and threatening football clubs for financial gains and of sparking chaos and violence if their demands are not fulfilled, said the interior minister.

He said several former and current officials of football clubs would also be summoned to give testimonies.

Guler disassociated the police operation from Sunday's violence and said the arrests were part of an investigation into several fan groups who were allegedly engaged in "organised crime".

The operation comes after the violence that erupted during the derby match which turned violent after Besiktas fans invaded the pitch, threw seats at police as their team were slipping to a 2-1 defeat.

Fighting began after Galatasaray midfielder Felipe Melo had been red-carded in the second minute of injury time.

Fans chanted: "Everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance," referring to a well-known slogan of the Gezi Park protests that rocked Turkey in June.

Besiktas's fan club, Carsi Group, was a prominent force in the anti-government protests sparked by a local campaign to save Istanbul's central Gezi Park from demolition, which broadened into nationwide demonstrations against the ruling party, seen as increasingly authoritarian.

The Turkish football federation's disciplinary board on Thursday punished Besiktas for the violence and said it would have to play four home matches behind closed doors.

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