At least 174 people were killed and 180 injured in a stampede and riot at a soccer match in Indonesia, officials said.
Riots broke out after the game ended on Saturday evening with home team Arena FC of East Java’s Malang city losing to Persebaya of Surabaya 3-2. The loss ended 23 years of undefeated home matches for the team.
Thousands of supporters of the losing home team reacted by throwing bottles and other objects at players and officials, The Associated Press reported.
Officers fired tear gas when fans invaded the Kanjuruhan Stadium pitch triggering a stampede and cases of suffocation, East Java Police Chief Nico Afinta told reporters.
More than 300 people were rushed to hospital, Afinta said, but many died on the way and during treatment.
“It had gotten anarchic. They started attacking officers, they damaged cars,” Afinta said, according to Reuters.
Videos from local news stations and on social media showed fans on the pitch clashing with police and fleeing what appeared to be tear gas in the air. Some images showed people who appeared to have lost consciousness on the pitch.
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Indonesian President Joko Widodo said authorities must thoroughly evaluate security at matches, adding that he hoped this would be “the last soccer tragedy in the nation.”
He ordered all games in the Indonesian top league BRI Liga 1 to be suspended until an investigation had been completed.
Indonesia’s soccer association, known as PSSI, suspended the Liga 1 indefinitely and banned Arema FC from hosting soccer matches for the remainder of the season.
Persebaya’s fans had been banned from buying tickets to Saturday’s match over fears of brawls. But Indonesia’s Chief Security Minister Mahfud MD posted on Instagram that the stadium was filled beyond capacity. He said 42,000 tickets had been sold for the match at a stadium with a stated capacity of 38,000.
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Attention has focused on the police use of tear gas, which is banned at soccer stadiums by world soccer’s governing body FIFA.
In a statement, FIFA President Gianni Infantino called it “a dark day for all involved in football and a tragedy beyond comprehension.” His statement did not mention the use of tear gas.
Amnesty International Indonesia blamed the tragedy on the police use of tear gas.
“We call on authorities to conduct a swift, thorough, and independent investigation into the use of tear gas at the stadium and ensure that those who are found to have committed violations are tried in open court and do not merely receive internal or administrative sanctions,” the organization’s executive director Usman Hamid said.
Hamid said tear gas should only be used to disperse crowds when widespread violence has occurred and when other methods have failed.
“This loss of life cannot go unanswered,” he said. “The police themselves have stated that the deaths occurred after police use of tear gas on the crowd resulted in a stampede at the stadium exits.”