At least 11 women were trampled to death in Afghanistan and many more injured when a stampede broke out Wednesday in a soccer stadium where they were applying for visas to enter neighboring Pakistan, officials said.
Thousands of people were redirected to the stadium instead of the visa center in the city of Jalalabad amid a surge of applications after a seven-month pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, a local spokesman told the BBC.
“The visa applicants jostled to secure their token from the consulate officials,” an official, according to Reuters. “The crowd got out of control, leading to a stampede.”
Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Mansoor Ahmad Khan, said he was “deeply saddened” by the deaths, adding that his country was “engaged with Afghan authorities for better facilitation of visa applicants.”
Attaullah Khogyani, the spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, said many people, mostly women, were injured at the stadium.
Anticipating a large crowd, officials decided to use the stadium and assigned 320 staffers to help manage the process, he said.
The Pakistani Embassy in Kabul said it has issued more than 19,000 visas in the past week after Islamabad reopened the border in September following months of closure.
“Unfortunately, this morning tens of thousands of people had come to the football stadium which led to the tragic incident,” Khogyani told the AFP news agency.
Millions of Afghans have fled to Pakistan to escape war and economic woes, while thousands travel back and forth for work and business, or to receive medical care.
Meanwhile, at least 36 Afghan police were killed in an ambush by Taliban militants in northern Afghanistan – the deadliest attack since the Taliban and the Afghan government resumed peace talks as part of a process launched under a deal signed between the US and the insurgents in February.
With Post wires