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Dozens die in church rush in Liberia

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Dozens die in church rush in Liberia

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A stampede at a church service has killed at least 29 people, including 11 children, in the West African nation of Liberia, after reports that armed gang members were robbing worshipers sparked panic, witnesses say .

The fatal crush took place on Wednesday evening as people left a wake-up service known as Crusade organized by a popular Pentecostal church at a school football pitch in New Kru Town, a poor neighborhood in Liberia’s capital Monrovia .

As rumors spread that people were being robbed on the way out, members of the church, World of Life Outreach Mission International, attempted to exit through a narrow gate in a fence that surrounded the soccer field, officials said. eyewitnesses.

“People were rushing towards the fence, fearing for their lives,” New Kru town resident Emmanuel Gray told Liberian radio station OK FM. “A lot of them started falling and then people started stepping on them.”

He and other young men pulled the bodies of 17 people out of the crush and took them to hospital, he said.

Another worshiper told the same radio station that panic spread when gangsters known locally as “zogos” arrived and started robbing people at knifepoint.

“People hear that the zogos took things from them after the crusade,” said devotee James Toe.

A police spokesman said investigations were ongoing and one person had been arrested carrying a knife. President George Weah of Liberia, who said he was “discouraged” by the deaths, announced three days of mourning.

The pastor who led the service, Abraham Kromah, said in a statement that he was “deeply saddened” by the deaths.

He is being questioned as part of the police investigation, according to Liberian National Police spokesman Moses Carter.

“We are going to make sure that everyone responsible for what happened faces the full weight of the law,” Carter said in a statement.

Several organizations have highlighted the gang members’ role in the stampede as a serious threat to Liberia.

The Liberian Youth Federation, a powerful group in a country where more than 60% of the population is under the age of 25, said it was a sign of “the national security emergency facing the nation from by its young population.

And the UN Development Program representative in Liberia said it underscored “the plight of unemployed youth in Liberia and the threat of drug addiction in the country.”

Liberia is still grappling with the fallout from two civil wars that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and forced many children to become child soldiers. It also experiences high unemployment rates and although it is rich in natural resources, it is one of the poorest countries in the world.

Dozens die in church rush in Liberia

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