11 killed in stampede at Rabat world music festival

Eleven people were killed in a stampede at a stadium in the Moroccan capital Rabat overnight when thousands of spectators hurried to leave at the end of a concert wrapping up the city's landmark music festival.


AFP- A stampede at a world music festival in Morocco's capital Rabat that featured the likes of Stevie Wonder and Kylie Minogue left at least 11 people dead, most of them women and children, police said Sunday.

The incident, which also saw around 30 people injured, happened shortly after midnight (0000 GMT) Saturday on the final night of the Mawazine (Rhythms) festival, where some 70,000 spectators were at the Hay Nahda stadium to see home favourite Abdelaziz Stati sing.

Police said the crowd surging towards one of the exits appeared to have brought down a wire fence, setting off the stampede as the concert ended.

Five women, four men and two children were later found dead, apparently having suffocated in the crush. A source close to the case said all those who died were Moroccan.

Rescuers rushed to the scene to pull out survivors and transport the injured to Rabat's main hospital, Ibn Sina, where a source said all but five of the injured had left by Sunday morning.

"Most of the injured are young," Abdelatif Benchekroun, the hospital's head of emergency care, told AFP.

Hassan Amrani, the prefect of the Rabat region, said Sunday that eight people -- including three children with various fractures -- remained in intensive care.

Their conditon ranged from "between serious and very serious," the director of Ibn Sina hospital Yasser Soufiani said.

A source close to Rabat city council said Stati's concert, which was free, had originally been scheduled to be held in Moulay el Hassan Square in central Rabat.

But it was switched to the stadium to accommodate the large number of fans, mainly young people, said the source, close to the security services.

The concert started later than scheduled, at around 11 pm Saturday.

As the other concerts ended, including one given by US star Stevie Wonder, more people moved over to catch the end of Stati's late-running concert, creating an unexpected increase in numbers.

At the end of the concert, a group of young spectators climbed over a stretch of wire fencing which collapsed under their weight, causing the panic   and a stampede that led to the deaths.

About 3,000 uniformed and plain-clothed police officers were at the event.

Later Sunday, the festival organisers Maroc Cultures issued a statement expressing "its great sorrow" and extended to the families of the victims "its profound and sincere condolences."

King Mohammed VI sent the families messages of condolence and offered to pay for the victims' funeral services and for the hospital costs of the injured, an official source said.

Morocco's interior ministry announced an investigation.

The Mawazine festival, created in 2001, is one of the most important cultural gatherings in Morocco, with street shows, an exhibition by Arab artists and children's events in addition to the concerts.

Some 1,700 foreign and local performers had converged on Rabat for the eighth edition of the Mawazine festival, which was opened on May 15 by Australian pop icon Kylie Minogue.

Performers this year included US soul legend Stevie Wonder, Algerian rai singer Khaled, South African singer Johnny Clegg, Brazilian bossa nova artist Sergio Mendes and Italian composer and conductor Ennio Morricone.

The 2008 edition of the festival attracted 1.2 million to nine venues across Rabat.

The festival's president, Mounir El Majidi, said in a message posted on the event's website that said the festival aimed to promote tourism and "support Rabat, as a city open to the world."

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning