Friday, May 11, 2001,
 Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

130 die in football stampede

Accra, May 10
Africa suffered its worst football disaster ever, and its third in a month, when at least 130 people were killed in a stampede at a soccer match in Ghana.

Spectators said the crowd stampeded when police fired teargas after fans hurled missiles near the end of a game yesterday between Accra team Hearts of Oak and arch-rivals Asante Kotoko from the central town of Kumasi.

“Some died of suffocation but the majority seem to have been killed by being crushed,’’ said Brigadier Daniel Twum of the military hospital where most of the dead and injured were taken after the stampede.

President John Kufuor, clearly very shaken by the tragedy during a visit to the injured, told Reuters simply “This is really sad’’. One of his officials said Mr Kufuor screamed when he first heard the news.

Mr Kufuor summoned his cabinet for an emergency meeting later today and his aides said that a period of national mourning would be declared.

Brigadier Twum said 102 dead were brought to the military hospital and officials at two other hospitals confirmed a further 18 dead. He said another 50 people had been injured, but most were not in a serious condition.

“All the victims will have to be identified, and then we will do postmortems,’’ Brigadier Twum said.

The witnesses said with Hearts of Oak leading 2-1 after two quick goals near the end of the game, Asante Kotoko fans began tearing up plastic chairs and throwing chunks onto the pitch.

The police reacted by firing teargas into the packed stadium which has a capacity of 50,000.

“There was a mad rush out of the stadium,’’ spectator Mohamed Anwar told Reuters.

“There was smoke and there were debris, and I counted at least 15 people lying on the floor in one part of the stadium. Some were injured and apparently some were dead.

“People who fell were lying on the floor. You could see that they were clearly dead.’’

Wails of anguish echoed around the stadium as scores of bodies piled up from Africa’s third football disaster in a month and the worst in its history.

On April 11, 43 soccer fans were crushed to death when fans tried to force their way into Johannesburg’s huge Ellis Park stadium midway through a top South African league match.

At least seven people were killed and 51 seriously injured in an April 30 stampede in the Democratic Republic of Congo after the police moved to break up rioting at a match in Lubumbashi.

Bitter rivalry has long marked games between Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko, two of the biggest names in football on a soccer-mad continent.

Hearts of Oak’s following is from the coastal capital Accra. Kotoko draws its support from the old Ashanti kingdom where Mr Kufuor, at one time Kotoko’s club chairman, has his roots.

Fears of trouble at one of the first matches in the league this season had meant there was a heavy police presence at the Accra Sports’ Stadium.

Harry Zakour, Chief Executive of Hearts of Oak, criticised police for firing up to a dozen teargas canisters in the stadium.

“One would have been enough to scare the public,’’ he said. “It’s a very sad story. We will have to set up a committee to see what went wrong’’.

Africa, which hopes to host the 2010 World Cup despite concerns over stadium safety, has suffered repeated tragedy over the past decade as a result of soccer violence.

Thirteen people died last year in a stadium stampede in Zimbabwe after police fired teargas at a World Cup qualifier between Zimbabwe and South Africa. AFP, Reuters


Ranchi court reserves verdict
Laloo challenges CBI move in Patna HC
Our Correspondent

Ranchi, May 10
The CBI designated court on Thursday reserved its verdict till May 15 on the petition of Laloo Prasad Yadav and Jagannath Mishra, the prime accused in the RC-47A/96 case of the infamous Rs 950 crore fodder scam case that on Wednesday challenged the issuance of arrest warrants against the two. The court had on Tuesday issued non-bailable arrest warrants against the former Bihar Chief Minister and RJD chief Mr Yadav and another ex-CM, Dr Mishra.

The court listened to the counter arguments of CBI counsel against the plea of Laloo Yadav and Mr Mishra regarding the validity of the court verdict as they maintained the chargesheet could not be filed in Jharkhand. The CBI maintained that the Patna High Court bench had stayed the transfer of only those 36 cases, the chargesheet in which were already filed. But as the fresh RC-47 case was a new case the charge sheet could well be filed here. The judgement was reserved that means Laloo Yadav has some time before he has to surrender. The arrest warrants have been issued but the Bihar DGP, Mr R.R. Prasad, has denied its receipt so far.

In the meantime in Patna, the lawyers of Laloo Yadav are learnt to have moved the Patna High Court on Thursday after the designated court reserved its verdict till May15. The lawyers have filed a writ petition appealing before the HC that the CBI had transgressed its legal limits in filing the charge sheet against Laloo Yadav in the Ranchi court of the CBI. The court has been moved as it had given its verdict on May 4 staying the transfer of the 36 CBI cases against the accused against the CBI plea.

Interestingly, the deferred verdict of the court has given Laloo Yadav the valuable time to plan his moves against the dissidents. He may also defer suitably his surrender. Dissident leader Ranjan Yadav has confirmed his visit to Patna to garner the energies of the dissidents to topple the Rabri government. As the verdict has been reserved till May 15, Laloo Yadav will have the time to personally deal with the dissidents’ game plan against him. He now has the time to see off the current threat to his wife’ s government and then go to Birsa Munda jail in Ranchi that has been made ready for his stay.

The state BJP leaders have in the meantime asked the Jharkhand CM, Mr Babu Lal Marandi, to ensure top security to Laloo when in jail and get his food checked as the RJD had levelled charges about the Jharkhand government not being serious to his security and there being a threat to his life in Ranchi jail. Jharkhand government is moving the hardened criminals from the Ranchi jail so that Laloo Yadav’s security could not be compromised with.

However, it seems the “NDA wish” to keep Laloo Yadav in Ranchi jail will not last long as the proceedings in the most important Disproportionate Assets (DA) case of the fodder scam are to start soon. As the proceedings will take place in Patna’s designated special court and as per the express orders of the Supreme Court, the trial has to be finished in six months itself, Laloo Yadav will be needed to be present on daily basis. His daily production before the Patna court from Ranchi will not be possible and therefore, Laloo will have to be shifted to Beur Jail, Patna. That is what the RJD thinktank wants.

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