Indonesia Sets up Team to Probe Soccer Stampede; Police Use of Tear Gas in Focus

People walk amongst debris in the stands at Kanjuruhan stadium days after a deadly stampede following a football match in Malang, East Java on October 3, 2022. (AFP)
People walk amongst debris in the stands at Kanjuruhan stadium days after a deadly stampede following a football match in Malang, East Java on October 3, 2022. (AFP)
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Indonesia Sets up Team to Probe Soccer Stampede; Police Use of Tear Gas in Focus

People walk amongst debris in the stands at Kanjuruhan stadium days after a deadly stampede following a football match in Malang, East Java on October 3, 2022. (AFP)
People walk amongst debris in the stands at Kanjuruhan stadium days after a deadly stampede following a football match in Malang, East Java on October 3, 2022. (AFP)

Indonesia has set up an independent team to investigate a crowd crush at a football stadium that killed 125 people, including 32 children, authorities said on Monday, as the country's human rights commission questioned the police use of tear gas.

Panic-stricken spectators stampeded as they tried to escape the overpacked stadium in Malang, East Java, on Saturday after police fired tear gas to disperse fans from the losing home side who ran onto the pitch at the end of the BRI Liga 1 match in the domestic league.

At least 32 of the victims were children between 3 and 17, Nahar, an official at the women's empowerment and child protection ministry, told Reuters. The official has earlier put the death toll of children at 17.

"My family and I didn't think it would turn out like this," said Endah Wahyuni, the elder sister of two boys, Ahmad Cahyo, 15, and Muhammad Farel, 14, who died after being caught in the melee.

"They loved soccer, but never watched Arema live at Kanjuruhan stadium, this was their first time," she added at her brothers' funeral on Sunday, referring to the home side they backed.

FIFA, the governing body for world football, says in its safety regulations that firearms or "crowd control gas" should not be used at matches.

"If there hadn't been any tear gas maybe there wouldn't have been chaos," Choirul Anam, a commissioner at Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights, known as Komnas Ham, told a briefing at the stadium.

Police and sport officials have been sent to Malang to investigate what is one of the world's deadliest stadium disasters. President Joko Widodo ordered the football association to suspend all Liga 1 matches until the investigation is completed.

In 1964, 328 people were killed in a crush when Peru hosted Argentina at the Estadio Nacional in Lima.

In a 1989 British disaster, 96 Liverpool supporters were crushed to death when an overcrowded and fenced-in enclosure collapsed at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield.

Indonesia's chief security minister Mahfud MD said the government would form an independent fact-finding team, including academics and football experts as well as government officials, to probe what happened.

The team will investigate for the next few weeks with the aim of finding out who was responsible for the tragedy, he said.

Violence and hooliganism have long been features of Indonesian football, especially in places such as Jakarta, the capital, but the scale of Saturday's disaster in this town in Java has left the small community numb.

‘Our football tragedy’

Indonesian daily Koran Tempo ran a black front page on Monday, centered on the words "Our Football Tragedy" printed in red along with a list of the dead.

Home side Arema FC had lost the match 3-2 to Persebaya Surabaya, though authorities had said tickets were not issued to Persebaya fans over security concerns.

Mahfud said on Sunday the stadium had been filled beyond capacity. Some 42,000 tickets had been issued for a stadium designed to hold 38,000 people, he said.

A tearful Arema FC president Gilang Widya Pramana apologized on Monday to the victims of the stampede and said he took full responsibility.

"Lives are more precious than soccer," he told a news conference.

In an address on Sunday, Pope Francis said he had prayed for those who have lost their lives and for the injured from the disaster.

FIFA, which called incident a "dark day for all involved in football and a tragedy beyond comprehension", has asked Indonesian football authorities for a report on the incident.



Trump Mocks Democrats in First Campaign Rally after Assassination Attempt

Donald Trump and Sen. J.D. Vance, Grand Rapids, Michigan, July 20, 2024. REUTERS/Tom Brenner Purchase Licensing Rights
Donald Trump and Sen. J.D. Vance, Grand Rapids, Michigan, July 20, 2024. REUTERS/Tom Brenner Purchase Licensing Rights
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Trump Mocks Democrats in First Campaign Rally after Assassination Attempt

Donald Trump and Sen. J.D. Vance, Grand Rapids, Michigan, July 20, 2024. REUTERS/Tom Brenner Purchase Licensing Rights
Donald Trump and Sen. J.D. Vance, Grand Rapids, Michigan, July 20, 2024. REUTERS/Tom Brenner Purchase Licensing Rights

Donald Trump held his first campaign rally on Saturday since he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt one week ago, poking fun at Democrats in turmoil at a heavily secured indoor arena in the election battleground state of Michigan, Reuters reported.

Fresh from his nominating convention where his takeover of the Republican Party was cemented, Trump appeared in Grand Rapids with his new vice presidential pick, Senator J.D. Vance from Ohio. They took the stage in their first campaign event together with the Republican Party unified behind them.

In contrast, it is no longer certain that President Joe Biden will be the Democratic Party's nominee facing Trump in the Nov. 5 election.

Biden has faced calls from some senior Democrats to end his re-election bid after his poor debate performance last month raised concerns over whether he could beat Trump or complete another four-year term.

Trump mocked Democrats, saying they wanted to kick Biden off the ticket after he won their presidential nominating contest.

"They have a couple of problems. No. 1, they have no idea who their candidate is," Trump said to laughter and jeers. "This guy goes and he gets the votes and now they want to take it away."

"As you're seeing, the Democrat Party is not the party of democracy. They're really the enemies of democracy."

He added: "And they keep saying, 'He's a threat to democracy.' I'm saying, 'What the hell did I do for democracy?'

Last week, I took a bullet for democracy."

Opinion polls show a tight race between the two men at a national level but Biden trailing Trump in the battleground states that will likely determine the winner.

Many Democrats fear he may not have a realistic path to victory and that the party needs a new candidate to take on Trump.

There was a heavy police presence at Trump's rally in Grand Rapids on Saturday, with police on every street corner for several blocks.

US Secret Service officers were positioned on the top balconies in the Van Andel Arena, giving them a bird's eye view of the crowd inside.

Bag searches for those entering the indoor arena earlier in the day were long and thorough, and the Secret Service sweep of the building took about an hour longer than usual.

The rally in Butler, Pennsylvania, last weekend was outdoors. At that event, the gunman was able to scale the roof of a building outside the Secret Service perimeter before opening fire on Trump, clipping his ear, killing a rally-goer and wounding several others.

The Secret Service, which is responsible for protecting Trump, declined to comment on security for the Grand Rapids event. An investigation is under way into the security failures at the Butler rally.

Trump gave a detailed account of his narrow brush with death in his convention speech on Thursday, telling the audience that he was only talking to them "by the grace of Almighty God."

Trump's former physician, Ronny Jackson, said on Saturday that the former president is recovering as expected from the gunshot wound to his right ear, but noted intermittent bleeding and said Trump may require a hearing exam.

The bullet fired by the would-be assassin at the July 13 rally in Pennsylvania came "less than a quarter of an inch from entering his head," said Jackson, a Republican congressman from Texas who had served as physician to Presidents Trump and Barack Obama.