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Published: Tuesday December 10, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday December 10, 2013 MYT 8:32:03 AM

Twenty-seven held over Singapore riot

Angry mob: Rioters throwing stones at police vehicles in the Little India district in Singapore. — AFP

Angry mob: Rioters throwing stones at police vehicles in the Little India district in Singapore. — AFP

Singapore: Twenty-seven men from South Asia were arrested in connection with Sunday night’s riot in Little India, which apparently started after a bus ran over and killed an Indian worker as he was crossing a road.

Videos uploaded on social media within the hour of the accident showed the private bus being set upon by an angry mob even as the 33-year-old victim’s body remained pinned under the vehicle.

The victim has been identified as Indian national Sakthivel Kumaravelu (pic).

Sakthivel has been working in Singapore as a construction worker with Heng Hup Soon, a scaffolding company, for about two years, said a man who identified his body at the Singapore General Hospital mortuary yesterday.

The man, who declined to be named, said Sakthivel’s family has not been notified of his death.

He added that Sakthivel’s body was not decapitated as reported by some news outlets but he did suffer injuries to his face.

During the violence, one man from the mob was seen in a video striking the windscreen and windows of the bus with a pole, while another tossed a litter bin at the vehicle from close range, shattering the front windscreen.

The crowd continued to grow, cheering and shouting vulgarities in Tamil – turning violent in a matter of minutes, said eyewitnesses.

First responders to the accident, including a Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) ambulance and a police patrol car, arrived at the junction of Race Course Road and Hampshire Road shortly after they received a call for help at 9.23pm.

SCDF rescuers were trying to reach the victim, who was trapped under the bus, with hydraulic tools when the crowd apparently attacked them.

“Projectiles were thrown at the SCDF rescuers while they were extricating the body,” said a spokesman.

The mob spiralled out of control quickly after that, turning on the police, including the reinforcements who had arrived by then.

“Some of the men lit beer bottles with fire and threw them at the police; I saw them throw more than 10 bottles,” said P. Kannan, who was waiting for a friend at the Little India MRT station.

Police estimates later put the mob at about 400-strong.

Commissioner of Police Ng Joo Hee said 300 police officers were activated to contain the rioters.

These included men from the Special Operations Command (SOC) and Gurkha Contingent, who arrived at the scene clad in anti-riot gear.

Residents living at Blk 661 Buffalo Road, many of whom had a bird’s eye view of how the riot unfolded, said they saw at least three police patrols cars being turned onto their sides by the mob.

Two ambulances at the scene were also attacked, one was seen with its windscreen smashed, while another, which was next to a Traffic Police Expressway Patrol, was on fire.

Rohit Sodhi, 25, a service staff member at the Jungle Tandoor Restaurant: “I heard what sounded like bombs going off. Three times. Then I saw a huge mob running towards my restaurant and down Upper Dickson Road. The police chased them.”

SOC officers, fanned out in anti-riot formation along the street, managed to break up the violent mob shortly after they arrived at the scene.

Commissioner Ng said during a press conference after the incident that the situation was resolved within the hour of the first call received.

“As far as we know now, there was no Singaporean involved in the riot,” said Commissioner Ng.

“The unwanted violence, rioting, destruction of property, fighting the police, is not the Singapore way.”

Two police patrol cars and an ambulance were set ablaze during the riot.

The burning vehicles triggered a few explosions before firefighters were at scene to put out the fire.

A total of nine SCDF and police vehicles were damaged in the incident, including an ambulance and three patrol cars that were burnt.

The SCDF said it had conveyed 18 casualties, including four SCDF officers, to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) for treatment. The police said 10 of its officers were hurt during the riot. They have all been discharged from the hospital.

The bus driver has been arrested and is out on bail, police said yesterday. The male Singaporean driver, who was warded at TTSH earlier yesterday, is being investigated for causing death by a negligent act.

He is understood to have been ferrying workers between Little India and a dormitory at Jalan Papan when he reversed into Sakthivel. The deceased is believed to have been drunk.

Sunday night’s incident came as a surprise to many, because not since the racial riots in Singapore in 1964, have the police been activated to respond to such unrest.

Polytechnic student Jovial Ng, 19, who lives on Buffalo Road said: “We studied about the Maria Hertogh riots in social studies but we never expected to witness anything like this in real life.”

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a Facebook post early yesterday called the riot a “very grave incident”.

“The situation is now under control, and investigations are underway. Whatever events may have sparked the rioting, there is no excuse for such violent, destructive, and criminal behaviour. We will spare no effort to identify the culprits and deal with them with the full force of the law.

“I urge all Singaporeans to stay calm. Do send the police any information, photos or videos of the incident that you may have. I also wish the injured officers a full and speedy recovery.” — The Straits Times/ Asia News Network

Tags / Keywords: ST


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