Indonesia probes elite officers as stadium disaster death toll rises

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Elite Indonesian police officers were under investigation Tuesday over a stadium stampede that killed 131 people including dozens of children in one of the deadliest disasters in football history.

As public anger grew, police moved to punish those responsible for the crush in the city of Malang that witnesses say started when officers fired tear gas into packed stands to quell a pitch invasion.

“As the regional police chief, I am concerned, saddened and at the same time I am sorry for the shortcomings in the security process,” East Java police chief Nico Afinta told a press conference Tuesday.

The terraces of the Kanjuruhan stadium were packed Saturday evening with 42,000 “Aremania”, or Arema FC fans, for a match against fierce rivals Persebaya Surabaya.

But after a 3-2 defeat, the first home loss for more than two decades to their adversaries, fans streamed down to the pitch to confront players and management.

Police described the incident as a riot and said two officers were killed, but survivors accused them of overreacting.

Officers responded to the pitch invasion with force, kicking and hitting fans with batons, according to witnesses and video footage, prompting more fans to enter the pitch.

The death toll jumped again on Tuesday with local health official Wiyanto Wijoyo telling AFP six more victims had succumbed to their injuries.

Indonesian officials said 4,000 more tickets had been allocated for the match than should have been, while some of the stadium’s doors appeared to have been shut, according to witnesses.

That left physically stronger supporters to scale large fences to escape the mayhem, while the most vulnerable were at the mercy of the crush as tear gas rained down.

The Malang police chief was replaced Monday, nine officers were suspended and 19 others were put under investigation over the disaster in the stadium, which was filled with only hometown Arema FC fans, national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said.

He said those suspended were members of the Mobile Brigade Corps, or Brimob, a unit that acts as the special-operations paramilitary unit for the Indonesian police force and is notorious for its aggressive crowd control tactics.

Indonesia’s football association also moved Tuesday to sanction Arema FC, banning its organising committee chairman and a security officer from football for life and fining the club 250 million rupiah ($16,000) over the tragedy.




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