Five killed in Algiers rap concert stampede

Algerians packed a stadium for the concert of rapper Soolking whose song 'La Liberte' (Freedom) has been the mainstay of weeks of anti-government protests

Five young people were killed and dozens more injured in a stampede at a packed rap concert in the Algerian capital, a spokesman for rescue services said Friday.

The stampede took place 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 the North African country, his song "La Liberte" (Freedom) becoming a mainstay of anti-government protests that enter their seventh month on Friday.

Captain Nassim Bernaoui of the civil protection unit told AFP there were five killed in the crush: "two young girls aged 19 and 22 and three boys aged 13, 21 and 16."

Dozens of people were lightly injured, Bernaoui said, 86 of whom were treated on the spot with another 32 taken to hospital.

Eight others were transferred to the Mustapha Pacha hospital in Algiers in critical condition, he added.

A medic, who asked to remain anonymous, later said seven people were still in hospital in a critical condition, without giving details on the eighth.

In front of the hospital, Ahmed Kadi had red eyes as he waited to collect the body of his 18-year-old daughter Chourouk.

"I didn't even know that my wife and my daughter had gone to the concert," he said, holding back tears.

They had been separated in the stampede.

"The organisers did their job badly," he said.

Nearby, Abderezak accompanied his friend Rachid Kadri as he collected the body of his 19-year-old daughter Chiraz.

"Chiraz wasn't planning to go but as she had passed her high school exams, her father wanted to give her a present and let her go with her friends," he said.

"It's criminal to organise a concert like that at the August-20 Stadium," he added.

According to APS, 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 said 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 told AFP.

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

Four concert-goers contacted separately by AFP, who were already inside the stadium when the stampede took place, said they had not been informed about it.

They said that when they left the venue at around midnight, no rescue services were visible.

The Algiers prosecutor's office said Friday that it had opened an investigation into the "painful accident" and would identify those responsible.

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.

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

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 political system.