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23.08.2019 Africa

Five killed in Algiers rap concert stampede

By AFP
Algerians packed a stadium for the concert of rapper Soolking whose song 'La Liberte' (Freedom) has been the mainstay of weeks of anti-government protests.  By RYAD KRAMDI (AFP/File)
AUG 23, 2019 AFRICA
Algerians packed a stadium for the concert of rapper Soolking whose song 'La Liberte' (Freedom) has been the mainstay of weeks of anti-government protests. By RYAD KRAMDI (AFP/File)

Five young people were killed and dozens more injured in a stampede at a packed rap concert in the Algerian capital, a spokesman for the rescue services said Friday.

The stampede took place Thursday night as fans thronged an entrance of the August-20 Stadium where rapper Soolking was to perform.

The 29-year-old has won a huge number of fans in the North African country, his song "La Liberte" (Freedom) becoming a mainstay of anti-government protests that will enter their seventh month on Friday.

Captain Nassim Bernaoui of the civil protection unit told AFP there were five victims of the crush: "two young girls aged 19 and 22 and three boys aged 13, 21 and 16."

Dozens of people were lightly injured, Bernaoui said, 86 of whom were treated on the spot with another 32 taken to hospital.

Eight others were transferred to the Mustapha Pacha hospital in Algiers in critical condition, he added.

The APS news agency quoted the head of the hospital, Abdeslam Bennana, as saying the five killed in the stampede were two young men and three young women -- all in their early to mid-20s.

According to the agency, the incident took place at around 1900 GMT, adding that the concert went ahead as planned but with a 30-minute delay.

Algerian journalist Akram Kharief, who specialises in defence and security issues, said that thousands of fans began gathering outside the stadium from mid-afternoon.

More than 30,000 people were estimated to have attended the concert, APS reported.

"There were only four small entrances allowing people to enter one at a time," Kharief told AFP.

"This caused a stampede... and people fell" as they pushed to get inside before the start of the concert, he added.

France-based Soolking, whose given name is Abderraouf Derradji, shot to stardom last year and was to perform just a single concert in his home country Algeria.

He dedicated the song "La Liberte" to protesters engaged in months of anti-government demonstrations and it has been heard on the streets on a weekly basis during rallies.

Algerians launched the unprecedented protest movement in February, initially against a bid by veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to seek a fifth term in office.

Bouteflika eventually resigned in the face of mass protests but the movement has not let up, continuing to rally weekly on Fridays to demand a complete overhaul of the ruling regime.

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