Monday, September 15, 2008

Witchcraft sparks deadly football riot

Thirteen people were killed and 36 injured in a riot at a football match in eastern Congo, a government official said today, that was reportedly sparked by accusations a player was using witchcraft.

Governor Julien Mpaluku, who attended funeral ceremonies and visited the injured at a local hospital, said an 11-member government delegation had opened an investigation into the tragedy.

Most of the victims were between the ages of 11 and 16, UN-funded radio station Radio Okapi said. They suffocated to death as people ran for the exits at the local friendly match Sunday in Butembo in North Kivu province.

Radio Okapi said police tried to control the violence at Matokeo stadium by firing guns into the air to protect their commander, who was hit in the head and wounded by rioting fans.

Mpaluku confirmed that shots were fired into the air, saying they panicked people and that the fatalities were caused "when the crowds all tried to leave at the same time."

"Most of the dead were children, only two or three were adults," Mpaluku said.

The two local clubs involved were Socozaki and Nyuki System, Radio Okapi said.

About 100 teenagers marched through Butembo's dirt streets Monday morning to express their outrage.

North Kivu has been the epicentre of violence between Congo's army and rebels over the last year that has displaced hundreds of thousands of people.


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