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Dutch police detain 240 nationwide as anti-lockdown protests turn violent


AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Rioters looted stores, set fires and clashed with police in several Dutch cities on Sunday, resulting in more than 240 arrests, police and Dutch media reported.

The unrest came on the second day of new, tougher coronavirus restrictions, including a night curfew, which had prompted demonstrations.

Police used water cannon, dogs and mounted officers to disperse a protest in central Amsterdam on Sunday afternoon, witnesses said. Nearly 200 people, some of them throwing stones and fireworks, were detained in the city, police said.

National broadcaster NOS said riot police had been deployed in at least 10 cities and towns after a curfew went into effect at 9 p.m. (2000 GMT). Vehicles were set alight, police were pelted with stones and public property was destroyed, it reported.

Military police said on Twitter on Sunday night that they were supporting local police in at least two cities in the south.

Images on Dutch television showed bands of youths looting shops, throwing bicycles and setting fires in the southern city of Eindhoven. At least 55 people were arrested in Eindhoven, the city said in a statement.

The demonstration in the city's Museum Square, which violated a ban on public gatherings, came the day after the government introduced a nightly curfew for the first time since World War Two.

Police cleared the square after people ignored instructions to leave and detained those who attacked them with stones and fireworks in nearby streets, the mayor's office said.

Parliament voted narrowly last week to approve the curfew, swayed by assertions that a variant of COVID-19 first identified in Britain was about to cause a new surge in cases. New infections in the country have generally been declining for a month, and fell again on Sunday, to 4,924 new cases.

There have been 13,540 deaths in the Netherlands from COVID-19 and 944,000 infections.

On Saturday night, police had arrested 25 people across the country and handed out 3,600 fines for curfew violations.

Schools and non-essential shops in the Netherlands have been shut since mid-December, following the closure of bars and restaurants two months earlier.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Additional reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Nick Macfie, Philippa Fletcher and Peter Cooney)

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