26 dead in Timbuktu mosque stampede: gov't

Fri Feb 26, 2010 2:14pm GMT

By Tiemoko Diallo

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Twenty-six people were crushed to death in a stampede near a mosque in Mali's desert city of Timbuktu, a government spokesman said on Friday.

The incident occurred on Thursday night during the Muslim festival of Maouloud.

"There were 26 killed and 40 wounded," Interior Ministry spokesman Oumar Sangare told Reuters by phone. Local police earlier had said 15 died and 41 were injured.

Imam Abdramane ben Essayouti said the stampede occurred as crowds heading to pray at the Djingareyber mosque -- one of the most recognisable buildings in Timbuktu -- encountered roads barricaded by construction work.

"People took to narrow alleys, there was jostling, and the tragedy occurred," he said.

Mali's President Amadou Toumani Toure was en route to Timbuktu from the capital Bamako, according to a statement from his office.

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