Indonesia: 32 children among dead in deadly stampede, police sanctioned
Thirty-two children are among the 125 dead in the deadly stampede that took place at a stadium in Indonesia this weekend, authorities said Monday, announcing the first sanctions following the tragedy, one of the worst in football history.
The mass movement also injured more than 300 people, some of whom are between life and death in hospitals in the city of Malang, east of the island of Java.
“According to the latest data we have, out of 125 who died, 32 are children, the youngest of whom is two or three years old,” Nahar, an official with the Ministry of Women and Protection, told AFP from an early age.
Amid public anger, the first sanctions fell on Monday with the sacking of Malang city police chief Ferli Hidayat and the suspension of nine police officers, according to national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo.
Security Minister Mahfud MD earlier urged Indonesian police to “identify” those who “committed the crimes” and crack down.
“If there hadn’t been tear gas, maybe there wouldn’t have been chaos,” Choirul Anam, a member of the National Human Rights Commission, said during a meeting.
Saturday night’s drama at Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang came as fans of local club Arema FC took to the pitch after their side lost 3-2 to neighbors Persebaya Surabaya.
Police responded by firing tear gas at the crowded stands at the stadium, which is home to 42,000 spectators, authorities said.
Onlookers then rushed en masse to narrow doors, where many were kicked and choked, witnesses said.
Police, two of whom were killed in the tragedy, described the incident as a “riot.” But the survivors accuse him of overreacting and killing more than a hundred bystanders.
“Some need to be held accountable. Who needs to be convicted?” said Andika, who declined to give her last name. “We demand justice for our missing fans,” the 25-year-old Malang football fan demanded.
– “A Big Cemetery” –
A witness asserted that the police refused to intervene at the time of the deadly mass movement.
“The place looked like a big cemetery. Women and children were lying on top of each other,” Eko Prianto, 39, told AFP.
“I rushed to the police and soldiers to help. There was no savior in sight. The police didn’t help and a soldier threatened to hit me.”
National Police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said investigators were analyzing CCTV footage to “identify suspects who carried out demolitions”.
They also questioned 28 police officers, specifically about the use of tear gas canisters.
Malang Football Club President Gilang Widya Pramana apologized in tears on TV on Monday.
His team visited the scene of the tragedy on Monday, its members wearing black T-shirts to pay their respects to the victims and to lay flowers before gathering on the ground for prayer.
– Call for an independent investigation –
Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced on Sunday the opening of an investigation. On Monday, he promised victims’ families 50 million rupees ($3,200) in compensation.
But several human rights groups have called for an independent investigation and for police to explain the use of tear gas in confined spaces.
“These losses of life cannot go unanswered,” Amnesty International said in a statement.
Human Rights Watch called on the International Football Association (FIFA) to conduct its own investigation and make it public.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino called the tragedy “a tragedy beyond imagination”.
For his part, the Brazilian Pelé, living football legend, wished “a lot of peace and love for the people of Indonesia” on Instagram.
“The pain of defeat does not justify the loss of love for one’s neighbor,” emphasized the three-time world champion.
Minister Mahfud MD said members of the commission of inquiry would be chosen from among government officials, analysts, football officials, media and academics.
Authorities will announce the results of the investigation as soon as possible, he said, estimating that “the mission could be completed in the next two or three weeks.”
– Fury –
Criticism of the authorities has exploded, online and from witnesses.
“Fans have died in the arms of the players,” Javier Roca, the Chilean coach of Indonesian club Arema, told Spanish radio station Cadena Ser on Sunday, saying “the police have gone too far”.
Fan violence is a long-standing problem in Indonesia, where club rivalries have often resulted in deadly clashes.
Persebaya Surabaya fans were not allowed to buy tickets for Saturday’s game for fear of incidents.
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