Indonesia soccer stampede kills at least 129, police say

MEDAN, Indonesia — At least 129 people were killed and about 180 others were injured in a stampede following a Saturday evening soccer game in Indonesia, local police said.

At least two police officers were among the dead, East Java Police Chief Nico Afinta told reporters. They suffered breathing problems and suffocated as they tried to exit the stadium, he said.

Thirty-four people died at the scene, Afinta said, and the rest died at hospitals.

“Mass commotion” followed the match, the soccer league, Liga 1, said in a statement, calling the episode a “heartbreaking incident.”

The tramplings occurred after the home team, Arema FC, lost to Persebaya Surabaya at Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, at which point dozens of fans stormed the field, according to social media videos and local media reports.

Videos showed fans charging toward the center of the field before they scattered, beat back by uniformed officers carrying batons and riot shields as loud bangs and clouds of smoke erupted in the arena. People jumped over barriers and leapt onto railings as they fled, with the officers beating and kicking those on the field as spectators looked on from the still-crowded stands.

Although the stampede was among the deadliest mass-casualty events at a soccer game in the country’s history, violence at matches is common in Indonesia; stadiums often allow only fans of the home team to attend in an effort to prevent fights.

“Sampai mati,” or “until death,” is a common refrain among many dedicated Indonesian soccer fans. Violence associated with soccer spectating is so intense in Indonesia that teams often travel to games in armored vehicles to avoid being pelted with rocks and other projectiles.

Indonesia’s sports minister, Zainudin Amali, said he was heading to Malang following the incident. He called for a full investigation and said he hoped this “disaster” would be the last of its kind.

The Indonesian president’s office and the chairman of the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI), Yunus Nusi, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Matches were suspended for a week, the league said. “Hopefully this will be a valuable lesson for all of us,” said the head of the league, Akhmad Hadian Lukita.

Pietsch reported from Denver.

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