Stampede in eastern Afghanistan kills at least 11 elderly women seeking visas to leave the country

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KABUL_____ At least 11 women were killed in a stampede in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangahar province Wednesday morning when thousands of people crowded into a soccer stadium to apply for visas to Pakistan, local officials said.

Ten women and three men were also injured in the incident in Jalalabad, the provincial capital. Most of the victims were elderly women.

A video of the stampede circulating on social media showed two fallen bodies amid the milling crowd. Photographs published by local news outlets showed thousands of people cramming into the stadium with passports and documents in their hands.

Pakistan began issuing visas last week after an eight-month hiatus due to restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

People started gathering at the stadium early in the morning after local officials instructed visa applicants to obtain tokens there, said Mohammad Ajmal Omar, a member of the Nangahar provincial council.

Omar said the death of the elderly women “dishonored all Afghans,” and he blamed the “incompetent government” for the incident.

Most Afghans visit Pakistan for medical treatment or to see relatives. The border crossing in Nangahar is heavily trafficked in normal times, and thousands of people have been waiting months to cross.

The provincial governor’s office said the decision to invite thousands to the stadium was made to prevent them from massing in front of Pakistan’s consulate. A statement from the office said hundreds of police officers were assigned to provide security and maintain order.

“Unfortunately, tens of thousands of people came to the soccer stadium this morning, which led to this unfortunate incident,” the statement added.

 

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