The Inspector General of Police (IG) has dispelled allegation that the police were to be held responsible for the studentsí stampede that took place yesterday, February 26, 2009 at the National Stadium and other areas across the capital city of Freetown.
Brima Acha Kamara said in a telephone interview with the Awareness Times newspaper that the students nearly overpowered the police, a situation, he emphasized, that left his men with no option rather than that of firing teargas canisters as a minimal force. He disclosed further that the incident left five police personnel badly injured, and are presently admitted at the Kingtom Police Hospital.
Inspector General Acha Kamara noted that students of Sierra Leone are well known for their riotous conduct, which he alleged was on display yesterday at the stadium. "The police as peacekeepers, and in ensuring that public peace was not breached, had to fire teargas at the riotous crowd of students", he stated, whilst disclosing that the timely and appropriate intervention of the police was able to save the situation that was gradually becoming a deadly uproar.
According to the IG, students were spotted pelting stones and other harmful missiles at innocent citizens, premises and car across the streets of Freetown. This situation, he said, was also quickly responded to by police personnel who were deployed at the National Stadium and other strategic areas in the capital. "The indications were clear that these students were more than determined to unleash terror in Freetown, as our search team at the National Stadium found knives, bottles and other harmful weapons in the possession of students, as they attempt entering the stadium," the police IG alleged.
He however expressed relief over the fact that no dead was reported, and used the interview as an opportunity to express his heartfelt sympathy on students who were involved in yesterdayís disaster.
Meanwhile, it was highly speculated yesterday that the unprofessional manner in which the Sierra Leone Police fired teargas canisters at peaceful jubilating crowds of students returning from the annual inter secondary school sports, resulted in the severe injuries and collapse of several students. The incident left several students being hospitalized at both the Connaught and King Harman Road Hospitals, and two of the several students who were in a life threatening situation were hospitalized at the Intensive Care of the Connaught Hospital.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.