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Sunday, 29 July, 2001, 06:58 GMT 07:58 UK
Ghana tragedy: Police to blame
Bodies at Ridge Hospital after stampede
Police over-reaction led to the stampede, the report says
Police in Ghana have been blamed for a football stadium disaster in May in which 126 people were killed and dozens injured.

An official inquiry accuses police inside the stadium in Accra of reckless behaviour at a match between the country's two top clubs.


We did not get any honest answers from officers and men who were at the stadium, who fired the tear gas and thunder shots

Commission chairman
It said they used firearms, teargas and rubber bullets indiscriminately and should be prosecuted and punished.

And referring to testimony given by police since the tragedy, the inquiry accused some officers of dishonesty and laxity which also merited punishment.

"We did not get any honest answers from officers and men who were at the stadium, who fired the tear gas and thunder shots," commission chairman Sam Okudzeto was quoted as saying.

Crowd trouble

Another member of the five-man inquiry team, Professor George Ofosu-Amaah, told the BBC there had been some minor crowd trouble but no fighting.

wrecked seats
Seats were wrecked as fans scrambled to flee the tear gas
The police had over-reacted, leading to a stampede as fans tried to escape down steep, unlit staircases, the team's report said.

The report has been handed to President Kufuor, who has promised to take strong action against those responsible.

A government spokesman said the results would be examined closely before new laws were drawn up that would hopefully prevent any repetition of such a tragedy.

Police Inspector General Ernest Poku refused to comment on the findings, but said: "Members of the commission are competent people and their judgement must be respected."

Recommendations

The commission also made recommendations about stadium security, improvements to gates at the ground, better first aid facilities and the creation of nationwide rapid response teams.

Footwear left behind by those trying to escape the stampede
Those trying to escape left behind footwear
The disaster began when home team Accra Hearts of Oak scored two late goals to beat long time rivals Asante Kotoko 2-1.

Witnesses said Kotoko fans began destroying the plastic seats at the stadium and throwing them on to the running track.

In response the police began firing tear gas into the crowd and some fans retaliated with bottles.

As the tear gas spread, panic ensued as the fans scrambled for the exits.

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The BBC's David Bamford
"The report indicates... police over-reaction... was responsible for the deaths"
See also:

27 Jul 01 | Africa
Nigeria v Ghana - follow it here
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