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The BBC's Mark Dummett
"Trouble started when the team that had been trailing scored an equaliser"
 real 14k

banner Tuesday, 1 May, 2001, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
Police 'blamed' for Congo stampede
Ellis Stadium disaster
Forty-three fans died in a similar crush in South Africa
People in the southern city of Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo have blamed the police for the stampede that has now been confirmed as claiming the lives of 14 people during a local league derby between Mazembe and Lupopo.

The accusations come as the Football Association FECOFA and the Congolese government announced the setting up of a commission of enquiry into the disaster.

The FA's secretary-general Kabamba Kasongo told the BBC in the capital Kinshasa that the FA had suspended the Katanga provincial league, pending the outcome of the inquiry.

My father died there. It's the police's fault.
  Fan speaking from Lubumbashi
FECOFA has also closed the Lubumbashi Kenya Stadium for all football activities An aide to the governor of Katanga province also told the BBC that the police had panicked and fired the tear gas which led to the fatal stampede.

The Congolese football tragedy comes right on the heels of a similar but much greater tragedy at the Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, where 43 spectators were crushed to death in a stampede.

Police 'panicked'

The police fired tear gas to deter unruly fans who had invaded the pitch after Mazembe equalised to level the score at 1-1 with just ten minutes of the game remaining.

It was confirmed on Tuesday that while seven people were trampled to death and asphyxiated in the ensuing crush, seven more died later on, bringing the toll to 14. All the funerals were held on Tuesday, with several government ministers attending.

One fan who was at the game and lost his father in the stampede told the BBC that the police were wholly to blame.

"The police intervened when objects started flying from the stands," he said.

"We were not even throwing stones at them - the Lupopo and Mazembe fans were throwing objects at each other, not at the police," he explained.

Blocked main exit

"They immediately started firing tear gas, and worse, they blocked the main exit. There was no means of escape and that's how the stampede started," he added.

"My father died there. It's the police fault. They should have never fired tear gas into the crowd," he lamented.

Supporters of both clubs have a history of hatred and violence towards each other.

Mazembe, who are the reigning Congolese champions were due to play Raja Casablanca of Morocco in Lubumbashi on the weekend of 11 May, in the second round of the African Champions League.

But it appears that game could now be moved to the capital Kinshasa, depending on the preliminary findings of the commission of inquiry.

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See also:

12 Apr 01 |  Football
Football's worst tragedies
12 Apr 01 |  World
South Africa stadium tragedy
12 Apr 01 |  Africa
Fifa's World Cup pledge
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