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Riot and stampede at Indonesian football match kills 125

Death toll in East Java revised down while president halts top-tier games until security probe is complete

At least 125 people have been killed after a riot and stampede at a football match in Indonesia, government officials said, one of the deadliest disasters in the history of the sport.

The game in Surabaya in East Java province between rivals Arema and Persebaya descended into violence after thousands of fans stormed the pitch, police said on Sunday.

The chaos occurred when police fired tear gas at “anarchic” fans on the pitch, which triggered a stampede in which people were trampled and suffocated, East Java police chief Nico Afinta said. Two police officers were among those killed.

The crowd was made up entirely of fans of the home team Arema, who lost the match 3-2.

Earlier reports that as many as 174 people had died were revised down to 125, officials said later on Sunday. At least 180 people were also injured.

The disaster prompted President Joko Widodo to halt top-tier matches in the country until a probe into the sport was completed.

Gianni Infantino, president of Fifa, world football’s governing body, called it a “dark day for all involved in football and a tragedy beyond comprehension. I extend my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims who lost their lives following this tragic incident”.

The tragedy is a damaging blow to Indonesia’s credentials as a venue for high-profile international sport. The country is hosting the men’s under-20 Fifa World Cup in 2023 and is bidding to host next year’s Asian Cup.

Rights groups criticised the police response, particularly the use of tear gas, which is banned for controlling crowds by Fifa.

“We . . . call on the police to review policies on the use of tear gas and other ‘less-lethal weapons’ to ensure that such a heartbreaking tragedy never occurs again,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

Footage posted by local media and online showed crowds overturning and setting alight police vehicles and chasing Persebaya players and officials.

Widodo said he “regretted” the events and ordered a thorough investigation. “I hope this is the last tragedy of football in the country,” he added.

As many as 42,000 tickets were sold for the match at the Kanjuruhan Stadium in East Java, despite it having an official capacity of just 38,000, Indonesian political, legal and security minister Mahfud MD said in an Instagram post.

The PSSI, Indonesia’s football association, has banned Arema from hosting games for the rest of the season, its chair said in a statement.

Sports and youth minister Zainudin Amali told CNN Indonesia that he was co-ordinating with the national police the PSSI to “determine the parties responsible” for the disaster. He told local media that the ministry would consider banning spectators from stadiums.

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