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Dozens killed in stampede at Yemen election rally

At least 50 people were killed and 100 hurt in a stampede on Tuesday at a stadium in southern Yemen during an election rally by President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a week ahead of polls already marred by violence.

The victims were crushed to death when tens of thousands of people tried to gain entry into the sports stadium at the town of Ibb, which was already crammed with about 100 000 rally goers, witnesses said.

”More than 50 people have been killed and over 100 injured,” a senior security official told AFP, requesting anonymity.

The stampede at Ibb, around 180km south of Sanaa, occurred just minutes after Saleh had finished an election speech as part of his campaigning for the September 20 presidential and local polls.

Bodies and injured people were seen lying on the ground as rescue teams and ambulances rushed to the scene.

The Ibb constituency, which has about 900 000 voters, is the second most important in Yemen after the capital Sanaa, and is an opposition stronghold.

Saleh kicked off his election campaign on August 30 and is virtually certain to win the presidential polls in which he faces four challengers.

The 64-year-old field marshal has been at the helm since 1978, first as president of the then North Yemen and then as leader of the unified state after north and south merged in May 1990.

The election campaign in the impoverished tribal-based Arabian peninsula country has been marred by acts of vandalism and violence, in which four people have been killed.

Tribesmen also abducted four French tourists in south-east Yemen on Sunday in a bid to put pressure on authorities to free jailed members of their tribe.

Saleh’s ruling General People’s Congress (GPC) and an electoral opposition alliance dubbed ”Common Forum” that backs the president’s main rival, Faisal bin Shamlan, accused each other of being behind acts of vandalism at a political rally in Ibb on Saturday.

Three Yemenis were killed and eight wounded late in August in a shoot-out between supporters of GPC and Common Forum local candidates in Jawf, 180km north of Sanaa.

A nephew of independent presidential hopeful Ahmad al-Majeedi was killed August 28 while organising a rally for his uncle in Lahij in south-west Yemen. — AFP



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