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50 killed in stampede, other attacks in Afghanistan

By Agencies & News Desk
October 22, 2020

JALALABAD/ISLAMABAD: At least 11 women were killed on Wednesday in a stampede at an Afghan football stadium where thousands of people had gathered to apply for Pakistani visas, authorities said.

The incident unfolded at the stadium in Jalalabad city, the capital of eastern Nangarhar province, after large crowds assembled in a bid to secure travel permission after the nearby Pakistani consulate resumed services following a seven-month hiatus due to the pandemic. To avoid overwhelming the visa centre, applicants had been directed to Jalalabad’s nearby football stadium to hand over passports and paperwork, provincial governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told reporters.

Khogyani and provincial hospital spokesman Zaher Adel put the death toll at 11 women, while Nangarhar provincial council member Naser Kamawal said 15 people had died and 15 more were injured.

Eyewitness Abdul Ahad said women had been given priority to stand at the front of the crowd. "When the officials announced that the gates were opening in the morning, everybody rushed to enter the stadium to be the first to deliver their passports," Ahad told AFP. "The women, most of them elderly, who were in the frontell and could not get up. It was chaotic."

A woman who survived the stampede recalled hearing screaming and seeing expectant mothers among those who were in the crush. "Some had miscarriages," the traumatised woman told AFP, declining to be named. "One who had been trampled gave birth there. We helped her but her baby was dead. The mother was injured, but alive."

Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul expressed "deep grief and sadness" over the incident. Thousands of Afghans from Nangarhar and other nearby provinces had arrived since the early morning to apply for medical visas or to visit relatives, and hundreds of policemen had been deployed at the stadium to control the crowds.

Hours after the incident, relatives were seen carrying the dead in coffins from a mortuary in Jalalabad. Many Afghans travel to neighbouring Pakistan every year, often for medical or educational purposes, while millions have taken refuge there over the past few decades to escape war and poverty in conflict-wracked Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Pakistan on Wednesday expressed grief over the loss of lives in a stampede at a stadium in Jalalabad city, where aspirants of Pakistani visas had gathered, and also urged upon the Afghan authorities to ensure better management of the process.

"We have received with sorrow and grief the news about the loss of precious Afghan lives and injuries in a stampede at a stadium in Jalalabad, several kilometres away from the Consulate General of Pakistan, where applicants for Pakistani visas were being gathered under the arrangements of the provincial Afghan authorities," the Foreign Office said.

"While the Embassy of Pakistan and the sub-missions in Afghanistan are committed to implement this new visa policy and to extend maximum facilitation to the visa applicants, we would request the understanding and cooperation of the Afghan people as well as the Afghan authorities to ensure better and secure management of the visa applicants," the Foreign Office said in a statement.

"The embassy of Pakistan in Kabul and the sub-missions in Jalalabad, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif are now issuing multiple entry visas to Afghan applicants, intending to visit Pakistan for family, business, medical treatment, education and other purposes," it added.

Meanwhile, officials in Afghanistan say a stampede near Pakistan’s consulate in an eastern border city and insurgent attacks elsewhere in the war-torn country have killed about 50 people.

A provincial government spokesman told VOA at least 15 people, including eleven elderly women, were crushed to death in the ensuing stampede, reported foreign media.

Meanwhile authorities in Afghanistan’s northeastern Takhar province said Wednesday that the Taliban there had killed at least 34 government forces in overnight attacks. A local government spokesman told VOA the provincial police chief for security was also among the slain men.

Meanwhile, fresh clashes have erupted between Afghan security forces and the Taliban near Lashkargah, the embattled capital of the southern Helmand province.

A provincial government spokesman, Omar Zawak, told VOA the insurgents attempted to enter the city from a forested area but Afghan forces quickly countered the action and killed more than 25 assailants in the process. Zawak confirmed the fighting killed at least one Afghan soldier and wounded several others.

The official claim could not be verified from independent sources and the Taliban did not immediately comment on the latest fighting in Helmand.