Chaos in Downtown Sofia, Protesters Target Mosque

Society | September 26, 2011, Monday // 21:20
Bulgaria: Chaos in Downtown Sofia, Protesters Target Mosque A garbage container is seen knocked down in a downtown Sofia street by protesters who clashed with riot police. Photo by BGNES

The clashes between protesters and riot police in downtown Sofia have gotten out of hand as close to a thousand protesters have tried to target the Sofia mosque.

After clashing briefly with police and gendarmerie forces at the National Assembly square near the Parliament building in Sofia, the protesters decided to target the Sofia Mosque Banya Bashi, but were repulsed by the riot police on the spot.

The mosque has been cordoned off and the police have stopped the traffic in the entire area.

Unconfirmed reports say that the police forces in Sofia have resorted to mobilizing staff from the Civic Protection services. Many of the top riot police detachments from Sofia were transported and deployed in Plovdiv and the village of Katunitsa Sunday night.

The clashes erupted after protesters started to throw stones and bottles at the police on the square before the Parliament building, with the situation reminding a scene from a Bulgarian stadium with high activity on part of football hooligans.

The downtown of the Bulgarian capital was in chaos Monday night, and it is still unclear how the clashes will develop throughout the night.

The government and the police authorities have made no formal statements about the situation.

The new rallies, which were organized on Facebook and started at 7 pm in both Sofia and Plovdiv, come after on Sunday Plovdiv nearly became the center of ethnic clashes between ethnic Bulgarians and ethnic Roma over the weekend, following the murder in the nearby village of Katunitsa of 19-year-old Angel Petrov by associates of notorious Roma boss Kiril Rashkov, aka Tsar Kiro, committed Friday night.

The murder of Angel Petrov, who was deliberately run over by a mini-bus, according to witnesses, led to massive protests of the ethnic Bulgarians in the village of Katunitsa against Rashkov's Roma clan on Saturday, culminating Saturday night into the burning of Rashkov's properties by football hooligans from Plovdiv.

The tensions grew in Plovdiv on Sunday, the day of Petrov's funeral, when the police barely prevented clashes between a protest rally and local Roma in Roma-populated quarters Stolipinovo, Sheker Mahala, and Adzhisan Mahala.

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Tags: gendarmerie, police, Angel Petrov, Katunitsa, gendarmerie, riot police, Kiril Rashkov, Tsar Kiro, protest rally, protest rallies, protesters, Adzhasan Mahala, Stolipinovo, ethnic Turks, ethnic Turkish, Roma, ethnic violence, ethnic clashes, clashes, sofia, Plovdiv, football hooligans, far right, extremists, Sofia Mosque, Banya Bashi
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