Indonesia’s President visits the city where the stadium riot killed 131 people

Indonesia’s President arrived in Malang as anger grew against the police response to a stadium invasion

Indonesian President Joko Widodo arrived on Wednesday in the city of Malang, where the riot at the stadium killed at least 131 people in one of the deadliest disasters in soccer history.

He greeted the relatives of the victims after arriving at the Saiful Anwar Hospital in the city of East Java.

He will then travel to Kanjuruhan Stadium, the site of Saturday night’s disaster, according to a presidential office official.

The Indonesian leader’s visit came as anger grew over the police response to a stadium invasion after Arema FC fans tried to approach players following their defeat by bitter rivals Persebaya Surabaya.

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

Officers responded to the pitch invasion with violence, kicking and hitting fans with batons, according to witnesses and video, pushing fans back into the stands where many were trampled or choked to death after being teargassed.

In response to the tragedy, Widodo ordered a halt to all matches, an investigation into what happened and compensation for the victims.

Indonesia’s chief security minister said a task force had been set up and the investigation would take two to three weeks.

Police said the investigation focused on six stadium gates using CCTV footage from cameras installed outside them. He said the exits were open but too small for the crowds trying to get through.

However, a spokesman for Indonesia’s football federation said on Tuesday that some gates that should have been opened 10 minutes before the final whistle remained closed.

They were closed “due to delayed orders” and officers “had not arrived”, he told a news conference.

Malang’s police chief was replaced on Monday, nine officers were suspended and 19 others were placed under investigation over the stadium disaster, police said.

Witnesses described being engulfed in smoke, their eyes stinging as they rushed for small exit doors. Several bystanders said police stood by and refused to help the victims.

“The place looked like a mass cemetery. Women and children were piled on top of each other,” Eko Prianto, 39, told AFP.

Indonesia’s football federation also moved on Tuesday to sanction Arema FC, banning the chairman of the organizing committee and a security officer from football for life and fining the club 250 million rupiah ($16,500).

He said the association had sanctioned the club and its officials “because of the … negligence of the whole situation”.

The police actions were outside the purpose of the union, the official said.

“We’re not going to go there,” she said, declining to answer questions about their behavior after the game.

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