Page last updated at 10:22 GMT, Tuesday, 16 September 2008 11:22 UK

Football witchcraft deaths probed

Charms worn by African football fan
Many African football fans support their teams with charms and witchcraft

The Democratic Republic of Congo is to investigate how 13 people died in a stampede at a football game reportedly disrupted by accusations of witchcraft.

The mostly-teenaged victims were killed as spectators rushed to exit the stadium in Butembo in eastern DR Congo.

The BBC's Patrice Citera in DR Congo says the fighting began when the goalkeeper of one of the teams was accused of witchcraft.

Reports of witchcraft are commonplace in DR Congo, correspondents say.

As elsewhere in Africa, the practice is linked to traditional animist beliefs that often co-exist with faiths such as Islam or Christianity.

Police chief struck

One eyewitness told our correspondent that the victims were trapped at the exit of the 15,000-capacity Butembo Stadium as they tried to flee during the match between Nyuki and Socozaki.

"It started at half-time when the keeper of Nyuki removed stuff from his jersey and threw it into the net of their opponents," the eyewitness said.


"Socozaki players caught him and started beating him after alleging that he had tried to throw witchcraft in their net.

"His Nyuki teammates intervened and a fight broke out between the two sides."

A police commander who intervened to stop the scuffles was then struck in the head by a projectile thrown from the stands, reports UN-backed Radio Okapi.

The eyewitness said the police chief had died but this has not been confirmed.

The police then fired into the air and used tear gas on the crowds, prompting a rush for the stadium's exits.

The game was a local derby - with the winner qualifying for the provincial local league of North Kivu province.

Dozens of teenagers in Butembo marched through the streets on Monday to protest at the deaths at Sunday's match, the Associated Press news agency reports.

The agency quotes regional governor Julien Mpaluku as saying the authorities would investigate the deaths.

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