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Indonesia launches investigation into soccer stampede that killed 125

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Damaged police vehicles are shown after a stampede and clash between authorities and fans of two Indonesian soccer teams. Photo by Sandi Sadewa/EPA-EFE
Damaged police vehicles are shown after a stampede and clash between authorities and fans of two Indonesian soccer teams. Photo by Sandi Sadewa/EPA-EFE

Oct. 3 (UPI) -- Indonesian authorities said on Monday that officers involved in wrongdoing that sparked the deadly stampede after a soccer match that killed 125 people will be held accountable.

Officials said a commission has been set up to investigate what happen at the soccer match over the weekend in Malang when home Arema loss 3-2, leading to fans storming the field. Officers responded by kicking and clubbing the charging fans and then setting off tear gas, causing a panic.

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Chief Security Minister Mahfud MD said that officers suspected of committing wrongful violence while on duty at the stadium would face criminal charges. The announcement came as public anger continued to grow about the police action.

People gathered outside of Kanjuruhan Stadium on Sunday evening for a vigil. They gathered under a statue of the team's mascot calling for justice against the police.

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An independent commission will conduct the inquiry, which should take about two weeks to determine monetary damages for victims' families, and whether anyone might be criminally responsible for Saturday's tragedy in East Java province.

The 38,000-seat stadium was above capacity with 42,000 tickets sold, according to Mahfud MD, the government's security chief who said the scale of the crowd was known beforehand and caused major concerns.

"We had anticipated the numbers and suggested that the game be held in the afternoon instead but it went on in the evening," Indonesian Chief Security Minister Mahfud MD said previously on his official social media accounts.

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"Our proposals were not met. I also would like to emphasize that supporters in the field were Arema FC's."

Arema lost the match for the first time in 20 years, setting off a clash between opposing fans in the stands.

Soon, the mob began storming the field, with police firing tear gas and beating people with batons in an effort to quash the "anarchy."

Panic set in as the mayhem grew more out of control, leading to a crush of bodies at only two exits.

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The toll included two dead police officers and more than 300 injured.

Some people trying to escape later said they were injured by tear gas canisters fired into the stands, prompting an internal investigation of the national police. There were also calls on social media for Mahfud's removal.

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Mohammad Choirul Anam, an official with Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights, said his organization would also investigate the police's use of tear gas and whether it may have ignited the deadly chain of events.

In a statement, Indonesia's Legal Aid Foundation said "the excessive use of force through the use of tear gas and inappropriate crowd control was the cause of the large number of fatalities."

"The use of tear gas that was not in accordance with crowd control procedures resulted in supporters in the stands jostling for an exit door, causing them to be short of breath and fainting and colliding with each other," the legal aid group said in a statement.

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The use of the chemical is prohibited by FIFA, soccer's global governing body.

"I regret that this tragedy occurred," President Joko Widodo Joko said in a televised speech to the nation. "And I hope this is the last football tragedy in the country."

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In Indonesia, violent conflicts are routine between fans of the country's various soccer clubs, and dozens have been killed at games in recent decades.

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