Indonesian police chief, others sacked over soccer disaster

MALANG, Indonesia (AP) — An Indonesian police chief and nine elite officers were fired Monday and 18 others were under investigation for their role in the firing of tear gas inside a soccer stadium that sparked a stampede that left the least 125 dead. officials said.

Distraught family members struggled to comprehend the loss of their loved ones, including 17 children, at the match in the eastern Java city of Malang, which was attended only by local Arema FC fans. The organizer had banned supporters of the away team, Persebaya Surabaya, due to Indonesia’s history of violent football rivalries.

Saturday night’s disaster was one of the deadliest ever at a sporting event.

Arema players and officials laid wreaths Monday in front of the stadium.

“We came here as a team asking for forgiveness from the families affected by this tragedy, those who lost their loved ones or those who are still being treated in the hospital,” said technical director Javier Roca.

On Monday night, some 1,000 soccer fans dressed in black jerseys held a candlelight vigil at a soccer stadium in Jakarta’s satellite city of Bekasi to pray for victims of the disaster.

Witnesses said some of Arema’s 42,000 fans ran onto the pitch in anger Saturday after the team was beaten 3-2, its first home loss against Persebaya in 23 years. Some threw bottles and other objects at soccer players and officials. At least five police vehicles were shot down and set on fire outside the stadium.

But most of the deaths occurred when riot police, trying to stop the violence, fired tear gas, including into the stands, causing a disastrous stampede of fans running in terror and chaos towards the exits. Most of the 125 people who died were trampled or suffocated. Among the victims were two police officers.

At least 17 children were among the dead and seven were being treated in hospitals, the Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry said. Police said 323 people were injured in the crash, some still in critical condition.

National Police spokesman Dedy Prasetyo said Malang police chief Ferli Hidayat had been sacked along with nine members of an elite police mobile squad and faces possible dismissal in a police ethics trial.

He said 18 officers responsible for firing the tear gas, ranging from mid- to high-ranking officers, are being investigated.

Police are questioning witnesses and analyzing video from 32 security cameras inside and outside the stadium and nine cellphones owned by the victims as part of an investigation that will also identify suspected hooligans, he said.

The parents and other relatives of Faiqotul Hikmah, 22, wept on Monday when an ambulance arrived at their home with the body wrapped in a white cloth and a black blanket. She died while fleeing towards Exit 12 at Kanjuruhan Stadium.

A dozen friends had traveled with her to watch the match, but Hikmah was one of four allowed into the stadium because tickets were sold out, her friend, Abdul Mukid, said on Monday. She later bought a ticket from a broker after learning of the chaos inside the stadium to search for Hikman.

I have to find her, save her, Mukid remembered thinking.

Mukid found Hikmah’s body lying on a building in the stadium compound, with broken ribs and bluish bruises on his face. He learned that a second friend had also died from other friends who called him while he was in an ambulance taking Hikmah’s body to the hospital.

“I cannot express in words how much it hurts to lose my sister,” said Nur Laila, Hikmah’s older sister. “She was just a huge fan of Arema who wanted to see her favorite team play. She shouldn’t die just for that,” she said, wiping away tears.

President Joko Widodo ordered the suspension of the first football league until security is re-evaluated and security is tightened. The Indonesian football association also banned Arema from hosting football matches for the rest of the season.

Arema FC President Gilang Widya Pramana expressed his sadness and deepest apologies to the victims and the Indonesian people, saying he is ready to take full responsibility for the tragedy at his team’s stadium.

He said the management, coach and players were in shock and speechless.

“I am ready to provide assistance, although it will not be able to bring the victims back to life,” Pramana told a news conference on Monday at Arema’s headquarters in Malang.

“This incident was beyond prediction, beyond reason … in a match seen only by our fans, not a single rival supporter,” he said between sobs. “How can that party kill more than 100 people?”

He said that Arema FC is ready to accept any sanctions from the Indonesian Football Association and the government, and “hopefully, it will be a very valuable lesson.”

Security Minister Mohammad Mahfud said he will lead an investigation that will examine violations of the law in the disaster and provide recommendations to the president to improve soccer security. The investigation will be completed in three weeks.

Mahfud instructed the national police and military chiefs to punish those who committed crimes and actions that triggered the stampede.

“The government urged the national police to review their security procedures,” Mahfud told a news conference.

The human rights group Amnesty International has urged Indonesia to investigate the use of tear gas and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice in open court. While FIFA has no control over domestic matches, it has discouraged the use of tear gas in soccer stadiums.

Despite Indonesia’s lack of international prominence in the sport, hooliganism is rife in the soccer-obsessed country, where fanaticism often ends in violence. Data from Indonesian soccer watchdog Save Our Soccer showed that 78 people have been killed in game-related incidents in the past 28 years.

Saturday’s match was among the world’s worst crowd disasters in sports, including a 1996 World Cup qualifier between Guatemala and Costa Rica in Guatemala City in which more than 80 were killed and more than 100 were injured. wounded. In April 2001, more than 40 people were crushed to death during a football match at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, South Africa. In February 2012, 74 people were killed and more than 500 injured after a match between rivals al-Masry and al-Ahly when thousands of al-Masry fans invaded the field and attacked visiting supporters. As a result, the Egyptian league was suspended for two years.

___

Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.