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PARIS – French authorities bracing for more hooligan violence in the north of the country involving Russian and English troublemakers say they have turned away 14 suspected hooligans who were trying to cross into northern France from Belgium.
Philippe Malizard, a senior official of regional authorities in the northern Nord/Pas-de-Calais region, said they are considering restricting alcohol sales in European Championship host city Lille and will be getting riot police reinforcements for games on Wednesday and Thursday, when Russian and English hooligans could again cross paths following three days of violence in the south of the country, in Marseille.
Russia next plays Slovakia in Lille on Wednesday afternoon. The following day, England meets Wales 30 kilometers (20 miles) away in Lens.
"We know it will be complicated," Malizard said, speaking in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "We suppose that we will have a lot of agitation in Lille" on the evenings of Wednesday and Thursday.
Already, Lille will be reinforced with an extra company of 80 riot police officers, a figure that could be increased further still if officials in Paris consider that necessary, he said.
That will come on top of the 480 police officers and eight companies of riot police already planned for match days in Lille, which is hosting six games for Euro 2016 and is easy for fans to reach, with direct trains from London, Paris and elsewhere.
Since Friday, 14 suspected hooligans have been turned away at France's northern border with Belgium, Malizard said. He said he did not know their nationalities but some featured on police lists of identified hooligans.
"We are doing everything we can to stop hooligans from coming to Lille for these matches," he said.
In Lens, authorities have limited match-day alcohol sales, including a ban on selling bottles of hard liquor. Lille had not been planning to follow suit but is now reconsidering. Possible alcohol restrictions in the Lille area were discussed Sunday with the Interior Ministry in Paris and more talks will follow with local mayors, Malizard said.
A decision is expected by Monday. He said that instead of banning sales, authorities may opt to "make an example" of bars that continue to serve people who are already drunk.
"I think we'll lean toward sanctions against bars that sold alcohol to drunken people," he said. "We have to discuss it. The decision isn't taken yet."