At least two people were shot and wounded and more than 50 people injured amid riots that broke out at a summit of the 15-member European Union in Gothenburg, Sweden, today.
The city's justice minister described the riots as the worst challenge the city ever faced. The unrest forced the EU leaders to hunker down in the fortress-like conference center for dinner instead of the local botanical gardens.
The talks drew an estimated 25,000 anti-capitalist protesters, though most were not involved in the strife, officials said.
In a park near Gothenburg University, rioters smashed the windows of police vans, while others hurled paving stones, firecrackers and other debris at police. They also set up makeshift barricades with tables and chairs from sidewalk cafes and set them ablaze.
At least a dozen policemen were injured, and hundreds were arrested, including 110 suspected militants who docked on a ferry from Denmark and were immediately detained, officials said.
The clashes occurred about a half a mile from where the two-day summit was happening.
EU leaders condemned the minority of protesters believed to be responsible for the riots, criticizing them for attacking elected governments and undermining the rights of their peaceful marchers.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told a news conference: "We have to pursue these rioters with all the might of the law. No country should tolerate these criminals."
Casualty reports were confused, but hospital officials said at least one of the wounded protesters was shot by police in self-defense.
At a late-night news conference, Sweden's Justice Minister Thomas Bodstrom denied police lost control but acknowledged the difficulties he was having keeping control.
"Many of the rioters came from other countries with the intention of disrupting the summit," he said. Fighting continued late into the night, and police asked residents to stay home.
Similar riots have dogged such international gatherings since the 1999 World Trade Organization conference in Seattle.
A Reassuring Message
The mayhem overshadowed the EU's efforts for the day, which concentrated on reassuring 12 ex-communist and Mediterranean countries of their plans to admit them over the next few years.
Last week, Irish voters had rejected the EU expansion treaty, but EU leaders said they were confident that expansion would happen.
"Despite the Irish vote, there will be a signal that the enlargement process is irreversible," Schroeder told reporters.
The Treaty of Nice, a complex document to overhaul the EU's rule book and expand its membership, was adopted last December after months of tough negotiations, but must be ratified by all 15 EU members.
Ireland is the only one that allows its citizens to decide directly. Since barely a third of voters turned out for the referendum, officials say they are confident the result can be turned around.
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said the nation needed a "national period of reflection" on the issue, and that it would vote again in the future.
On Thursday, President Bush visited the conference to meet the EU leaders. He used the opportunity to press for both the expansion of NATO and the EU, saying: "I strongly believe in NATO expansion, and I believe the EU ought to expand as well.
There were riots on Thursday as well, during which hundreds of people were detained. But today's clashes were much worse. Bush flew to Poland early today.