Suspect in murder of handball star nabbed in Austria

Suspect in murder of handball star nabbed in AustriaBudapest  - Austrian police arrested one of two men suspected of killing Romanian handball international Marian Cozma, Hungarian officials said Sunday night.

Hungarian police spokeswoman Piroska Varadi said international arrest warrants had been issued for two suspects, Sandor Raffael and Ivan Sztojka, but did not confirm which of the two had been caught at the Austrian border.

Cozma was killed and two of his teammates injured in a knife attack outside a Hungarian nightclub early Sunday.

The slaying has stunned international handball fans and sent shockwaves throughout Hungary, where recent months have seen a growing sense of public unease over a rise in violent crime.

Cozma, the 2.10-metre-tall star of Hungarian team MKB-Veszprem, was stabbed in the heart following an altercation at a local night club in Veszprem, 80 kilometres from Budapest.

The 26-year-old, who was also a member of Romania's national team, was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.

A group of MKB-Veszprem players and friends had been celebrating the birth of a team member's child at a night club when an argument with another large group spilled out onto the street.

"The players were behaving normally when a group of about 30 attacked Cozma as he danced with his girlfriend," said Akos Hunyadfalvy, team president.

"The crime on Sunday morning was not only an attack against the victims and sports fans in Veszprem, but also against public order and safety in Hungary," said Hungarian Justice Minister Tibor Draskovics.

MKB-Veszprem's Croatian goalkeeper Ivan Pesic, 23, was also stabbed in the fracas and had to undergo emergency surgery to remove a damaged kidney.

His Serbian teammate Zarko Sesum was kicked unconscious after rushing to Cozma's aid and taken to hospital with a fractured cheekbone.

"Zarko Sesum is out of danger and his condition is stable," Veszprem hospital director Jeno Racz said, adding that he would need reconstructive surgery.

A crowd of about 1,000, many wearing MKB-Veszprem scarves, gathered in front of the town's sports arena for a vigil that was mirrored in several other towns and cities across Hungary.

Cozma's father travelled to Veszprem when he learned of the death of his son. "He never hurt anyone, and yet this how he had to die," the distraught father said on Hungarian television.

"A large-scale investigation is under way, and a large force has been mobilized to maintain public order and safety," Veszprem police chief Zoltan Bolcsik told reporters. (dpa)