129 dead as fans flee Indonesia soccer match

Indonesia’s police chief and others removed over soccer scandal

MALANG, Indonesia – An Indonesian police chief and nine senior officers were removed from their posts on Monday and 18 others are being investigated for responsibility after a tear gas fire inside a soccer stadium sparked chaos. It killed at least 125 people, officials said. .

Grieving family members struggle to come to terms with the loss of loved ones, including 17 children, in Malang, East Java, where only Arima FC fans attended. Organizers had banned supporters of visiting team Persabaya Surabaya, because of Indonesia’s football rivalry’s history of violence.

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

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

“We are here as a group to apologize to the families affected by this tragedy, those who have lost loved ones or those who are still being treated in hospital,” said head coach Javier Roca. .

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

Witnesses said around 42,000 Arima fans stormed the pitch on Saturday after the team lost 3-2, their first defeat at home to Persibaya in 23 years. Some threw bottles and other objects at the players and football officials. At least five police cars were burnt outside the stadium.

But most of the deaths occurred when riot police tried to quell the violence, using tear gas, including in the stands, to create a devastating stampede of fans who were scared and confused to leave. do Most of the 125 people were crushed to death or suffocated. Among the dead are two policemen.

The Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection said that at least 17 children are among the dead and seven are under treatment in hospitals. The police said that 323 people were injured in the incident, some of them are in critical condition.

National Police Spokesperson Didi Prestio said Malang Police Chief Farli Hidayat has been dismissed along with nine members of the police mobile unit and faces possible dismissal in a police ethics trial.

He said that 18 officers, ranging from middle to senior ranks, are being investigated for firing tear gas.

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

The parents and other relatives of 22-year-old Faqih al-Hikma screamed on Monday when an ambulance arrived at their home with her body in a white dress and a black blanket. She died while running from exit 12 at Kanjurohan Stadium.

Dozens of friends had gone with her to watch the game, but Hikmat was only one of four who managed to enter the stadium because tickets were sold out, her friend Abdul Muqeed said on Monday. He bought a ticket from a broker after hearing commotion inside the stadium to search for Hakimane.

“I have to find him, save him,” Muqid recalled thinking.

Muqid found Hikma’s body lying in a building in the yard of the stadium, with broken legs and yellow wounds on his face. He learned that another friend of his had died and called him while he was taking Hakeem’s body to the hospital in an ambulance.

“I can’t put into words how sad it is to lose my sister,” said Noor Laila, Hikmat’s older sister. He was just a big fan of Arima who wanted to watch his favorite team play. She shouldn’t have died just for this,” she wiped away tears.

President Joko Widodo has ordered the suspension of the Premier League until security is reassessed and security is tightened. The Indonesian Football Association also banned Arima from hosting football matches for the rest of the season.

Arima FC president Gelang Widya Permana expressed his grief and deep apologies to the victims and the people of Indonesia and said he is ready to take full responsibility for the incident at his team’s stadium.

He said that the management, the coach and the players were shocked and speechless.

“I am ready to provide assistance, although it will not restore the lives of the victims,” ​​Parmana said at a press conference at Arima’s headquarters in Malang on Monday.

“This incident was beyond prediction, beyond reason… in a game watched only by our fans, not a single supporter of the rival,” he lamented. “How can this game kill more than 100 people?” he cried.

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

Security Minister Mohammad Mahfoud said he would lead an investigation into violations of the law in the disaster and make recommendations to the president to improve football security. This research will be completed in three weeks.

Mahmoud instructed the National Police and military officials to punish those who have committed crimes and actions.

“The government has asked the National Police to review its security procedures,” Mahmoud said in a press conference.

Amnesty International has called on Indonesia to investigate the use of tear gas and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice. While FIFA does not control domestic matches, it has advised against the use of tear gas in football stadiums.

Despite Indonesia’s lack of international fame in the sport, there is a concentration in the soccer-obsessed nation where the frenzy often ends in violence. According to the data of Save Our Soccer, Indonesia’s football watchdog, 78 people have been killed in incidents related to the game in the past 28 years.

Saturday’s match was one of the world’s worst sporting disasters, including a 1996 World Cup qualifier between Guatemala and Costa Rica in Guatemala City that left more than 80 dead and more than 100 injured. became In April 2001, more than 40 people were killed during a football match in Ellis Park, Johannesburg, South Africa. In February 2012, 74 people were killed and more than 500 injured after a match between rivals Al-Masri and Al-Ahly, when thousands of Al-Masri supporters stormed the field and attacked the spectators. As a result, the Egyptian League was suspended for two years.

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