Tue, Feb 15, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Eleven die at Nigerian rally

AP, LAGOS, Nigeria

A stampede at a political rally killed 11 people and injured dozens more as Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan spoke, highlighting the insecurity in Africa’s most populous nation as it prepares for national elections in April.

As Jonathan began his speech on Saturday at the soccer stadium in Port Harcourt, some attendees tried to leave to beat the traffic out of the stadium, while others pushed their way inside to hear his speech, said Ibim Semenitari, a Rivers State government spokeswoman.

Eleven people died in the crush, Rivers State police spokeswoman Rita Inoma-Abbey said.

Semenitari said at least 46 others had sought treatment at hospitals.

“I am sad and heavily weighed down by this incident,” said Jonathan, who canceled his campaign events scheduled for yesterday. “It is sad, unfortunate and regrettable. I mourn with those who mourn tonight. May God grant us all the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss.”

While deadly stampedes are not uncommon at large public events in Nigeria, such crowd violence is rare at an event where presidential security is present.

On Sunday, authorities in southern Nigeria said they were setting up an investigative panel to look at the cause of the stampede at the political rally.

Political parties often pay the unemployed to attend such events to swell numbers, while organizers often hand out free hats and shirts — a valued gift in a country where most earn less than US$2 a day.

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