Football stampede death toll rises as 6 victims succumb

MALANG, Indonesia (AFP) — The death toll from an Indonesian football riot that turned into a stampede rose by six to 131 on Tuesday, a local health official told AFP.

The six additional victims who succumbed to their injuries “have been sent home to their families,” Wiyanto Wijoyo, head of the health agency in Malang Regency where the tragedy took place, said.

Meanwhile, elite Indonesian police officers were under investigation Tuesday over the stampede that also killed dozens of children in one of the deadliest disasters in football history.

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

The police chief in Indonesia’s East Java apologized Tuesday for the disaster.

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

The Indonesian government suspended the country’s national league and announced a task force to investigate the tragedy. It said the probe would take two to three weeks to complete.

Arema FC fans set up a makeshift center in Malang Monday to receive legal complaints, saying they would file a lawsuit against officers for causing what they said were scores of deaths by indiscriminately targeting spectators in confined terraces.

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

“If there was a riot, it (the tear gas) should be fired to the pitch, not in the stand,” Danny Agung Prasetyo, supporter group Arema DC’s coordinator told AFP.

“Many of the victims were those who were in the stand. They were panicking because of the tear gas.”

The terraces of the Kanjuruhan stadium were packed with thousands of young “Aremania” or Arema FC fans, to watch their team face fierce rivals Persebaya Surabaya.

But after a 3-2 defeat, the first at home for more than two decades to their adversaries from East Java’s biggest city, fans streamed down to the pitch to speak to players and management.

Police responded to the pitch invasion with force by kicking and hitting fans with batons, according to witnesses and video footage, prompting more fans to join the crowd on the pitch.

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