Page last updated at 11:10 GMT, Wednesday, 1 April 2009 12:10 UK

Ivory Coast mourns football fans

President Laurent Gbagbo and other leaders at a ceremony mourning the people killed in the Abidjan football tragedy
President Laurent Gbagbo (right) leads mourning in Abidjan

Ivory Coast has begun three days of national mourning for 19 football fans killed in a match stampede in Abidjan.

More than 130 people were injured when a wall collapsed at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny stadium shortly before a World Cup qualifier on Sunday.

The government has opened an inquiry into the incident.

World football governing body Fifa called for a minute's silence to be held at World Cup qualifying games played on Wednesday.

Sunday's game went ahead and hosts Ivory Coast beat Malawi 5-0.

On Tuesday, a member of the Malawi team told the BBC his side had been aware of the deaths before playing the game.

"We thought that maybe the referee would ask us to pay one minute's silence, but nothing was said, so we just carried on," said defender Elvis Kafoteka.


Ivory Coast's President Laurent Gbagbo declared the three days of mourning and said the cause of the accident needed to be known to prevent such a tragedy happening again.

The government will take an active part in caring for those wounded
Prime Minister Guillaume Soro

Following a special cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Prime Minister Guillaume Soro said he had advised Mr Gbagbo to establish a committee to "study, analyse and take account of all the failings that can lead to such tragic events".

"The government will take an active part in caring for those wounded and in organising funerals," AFP news agency quoted Mr Soro as saying.

Initially Ivorian officials blamed ticketless fans for the crush, saying they had tried to force their way into the stadium.

But some fans said security forces had fired tear gas on the crowds, creating panic.

Correspondents say it seems that the sheer number of people who wanted to get into the match proved too much.

The tragedy in Abidjan is the second such incident during qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup in Africa.

In June 2008, at least eight people died in a crush in Liberia as spectators jostled to get into an already overcrowded stadium in Monrovia for the match between Liberia and The Gambia.

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