Five dead and scores injured in Algeria concert stampede

Tragedy strikes at show in Algiers by popular rap artist Soolking

REFILE - ADDING INFORMATION General view of the stadium following a stampede at a rap concert where thousands had gathered to see local rap star Abderraouf Derradji, known as 'Soolking' in Algiers, Algeria August 23, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina
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Five young people were killed and dozens more injured in a stampede at a packed rap concert in the Algerian capital, rescue services said on Friday.

The stampede took place on Thursday night as fans thronged an entrance of the August-20 Stadium where rapper Soolking was to perform.

The 29-year-old has won a huge number of fans in Algeria, with his song La Liberte becoming a mainstay of anti-government protests that entered their seventh month on Friday.

Captain Nassim Bernaoui of the civil protection unit said there were five victims of the crush – "two young girls aged 19 and 22 and three boys aged 13, 21 and 16".

Eight people were taken to the Mustapha Pacha hospital in Algiers in critical condition, Mr Bernaoui said. Eighty-six people who suffered light injuries were treated on the spot and another 32 were taken to hospital.

According to the agency, the incident took place at around 1900 GMT, adding that the concert went ahead as planned but with a 30-minute delay.

Algerian journalist Akram Kharief, who specialises in defence and security issues, said that thousands of fans began gathering outside the stadium from mid-afternoon.

More than 30,000 people were estimated to have attended the concert, APS reported.

"There were only four small entrances allowing people to enter one at a time," Kharief said.

"This caused a stampede ... and people fell" as they pushed to get inside before the start of the concert, he said.

France-based Soolking, whose given name is Abderraouf Derradji, shot to stardom last year and was to perform just a single concert in his home country Algeria.

He dedicated the song La Liberte to protesters engaged in months of anti-government demonstrations and it has been heard on the streets on a weekly basis during rallies.

Algerians launched the unprecedented protest movement in February, initially against a bid by veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to seek a fifth term in office.

Mr Bouteflika eventually resigned in the face of mass protests but the movement has not let up, continuing to rally weekly on Fridays to demand a complete overhaul of the ruling regime.

Several ministers and senior officials in the Bouteflika government as well as businessmen with links to the former president have been detained while they are investigated for possible corruption and other wrongdoing.

On Thursday, former justice minister Tayeb Louh was placed in preventative detention on allegations of abuse of power. The national news agency APS said he was under investigation for several alleged offences, including "abuse of power and obstructing justice".

Mr Louh, 68, was close to Mr Bouteflika and served as labour minister from 2002 until 2013 and as justice minister until the cabinet resigned in March in the face of growing anti-government protests.