A Spanish riot police officer has died of cardiac arrest after fans clashed ahead of last night’s (Thursday) Uefa Europa League football match between Spanish LaLiga team Athletic Bilbao and Russian Premier League club Spartak Moscow.

Athletic Bilbao was hosting the first leg of the round of 32 game at its San Mamés Stadium, but despite a heavy police presence at the venue, crowd trouble broke out prior to the match.

According to the Associated Press news agency, Basque Country authorities in northern Spain said the officer died in a hospital after attending to the trouble. The officer was not immediately named, but local media said he was a 50-year-old man.

Spanish authorities also confirmed that a Russian man was injured during the clashes, but the extent of his injuries were not immediately disclosed.

A total of five people were arrested at the site, three Russians and two Spaniards.

Reports suggest that the police had been escorting Spartak fans to the stadium, but a stray group allegedly started to light fireworks and flares, throwing these and other objects to towards Bilbao supporters.

Fighting then spread to the streets near to the stadium and many fans were seen running away from the trouble. Reports have also suggested that so-called ‘Ultra’ Russian fans were involved in the clashes.

Uefa, the governing body for football in Europe and organiser of the continental Europa League competition, said in a statement: “Uefa strongly condemns the violent clashes which occurred in Bilbao. We are in contact with local authorities to obtain further information on these incidents.

UPDATE: Spanish authorities said today that the officer who died was not in direct confrontation with fans. 

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