Soccer disaster mourners pelt police station

Hundreds of Ghanaian youths returning from a funeral service for Muslim victims killed in Africa’s worst soccer disaster vented their anger by attacking a police station and destroying kiosks and street lights in a working class neighbourhood of the capital, Accra.

Hundreds of Ghanaian youths returning from a funeral service for Muslim victims killed in Africa’s worst soccer disaster vented their anger by attacking a police station and destroying kiosks and street lights in a working class neighbourhood of the capital, Accra.

The youths had earlier attended a funeral service for 30 victims of the mass stampede at the Accra sports stadium on Wednesday, in which 126 people were killed.

The stampede, prompted by police lobbing tear gas into an unruly section of soccer fans at the stadium, has led to a public outcry against police in the west African nation.

Witnesses said the rock-wielding youths began surrounding the Nima police station, snatching a motorbike from the compound while pelting the building with stones.

When police fired warning shots into the air they ran away, only to regroup further and block off the main road leading to the Nima neighbourhood from which they came.

‘‘In the name of Allah we don’t want police,’’ they chanted.

The standoff continued for several hours after military reinforcements arrived in jeeps and cordoned off the police station.

As night fell, soldiers patrolled the streets around Nima, a densely populated low-income neighbourhood, predominantly Muslim.

Earlier, singing and wailing families wrapped their dead in white shrouds and lowered them into graves at an Accra cemetery following the funeral service which was held at the Central Mosque.

Thousands bowed there in prayer in front of 20 wooden coffins lined up in front of rows of people.

Flags throughout the country were flying at half-mast in Accra yesterday as Ghana began three days of national mourning.

Grieving relatives dressed in black collected bodies off a morgue’s blood-spattered floor before bringing them to the mosque.

Under the watchful eye of armed soldiers, President John Kufuor visited the mosque to express his condolences to the assembled mourners, political leaders, soccer players and officials.

‘‘Many have lost dear ones,’’ he said. ‘‘For some it is the head of the family. For others it is a much-loved son or daughter whose life held such promise. I share your grief and feel your pain, and as your president I stand here today to share these difficulties.

Kufuor promised to compensate each bereaved family by 2.5 million cedis (£240), in addition to providing assistance with funeral expenses and medical care for the injured.

‘‘There will be no cover-up,’’ he declared to loud applause from the crowd.

‘‘Those found to have caused the tragedy will be punished.’’

Private funerals were also being held across the city, and a multi-denominational memorial service was planned for Sunday.

Survivors say the disaster began when police fired tear gas at fans who were throwing bottles and chairs on the field at Accra Stadium, sending a panicked crowd stampeding to the main gates only to find them locked.

Hometown team Accra Hearts of Oak was leading Asante Kotoko of Kumasi 2-1 with five minutes left when Asante supporters began throwing objects on to the field at the 45,000-capacity stadium.

Many Ghanaians believe police overreacted and the tear gas fired was excessive.

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