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Yemen: at least 85 dead in stampede during Eid aid distribution

An event for impoverished Sanaa residents to collect food and other aid before the Eid Al-Fitr celebrations ended in a stampede and crush, with at least 85 people dead and over 322 injured, according to Houthi authorities. The tragedy comes just when it seemed Yemen's luck was changing, with recent talks and a prisoner swap evidence of the beginnings of a peace process. As Muslims around the world celebrate the end of Ramadan, many families in Sanaa will be in mourning over the Eid festivities

April 20, 2023 at 11:38 am

At least 85 people were killed and 322 injured in a stampede as Eid aid was being distributed in the Yemeni capital Sanaa today.

“Eighty-five people were killed and more than 322 wounded, including 50 in critical condition,” a Houthi security official told AFP. A medical official confirmed the outcome of the accident, which took place in the Bab Al-Yaman area in central Sanaa where financial aid was being distributed to those in need.

“Among the dead were women and children,” the security official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The incident took place inside Maeen School, where hundreds gathered to receive aid, according to eyewitness accounts. Some said that gunfire triggered the stampede.

A video recording published by the Houthi-affiliated Al-Masirah TV showed dozens of people crowded in a narrow place, while some of them shouted, “Move back, move back.”

The Houthis did not reveal the cause of the stampede. However, the Houthi news agency Saba quoted the spokesperson in the Houthi-run Ministry of Interior, Brigadier General Abdul-Khaliq Al-Ajri, as saying that the incident occurred “due to a stampede of citizens during the random distribution of money by some merchants.”

He added, “The tragic and painful accident (…) claimed dozens of lives,” noting that “the dead and injured were transferred to hospitals and two of the merchants involved in the incident were arrested.”

A large number of the victims’ families gathered in front of Al-Thawra Hospital and tried to enter, but security guards prevented them from entering while officials visited the hospital.

The Houthi security forces imposed a security cordon around Maeen School at Bab Al-Yemen in Old Sanaa where the incident occurred and prevented entry and photography of the school.

In the context, the head of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, Mahdi Al-Mashat, announced “the formation of a committee consisting of members from the interior ministry, security agency, intelligence agency, judiciary and prosecution office to investigate the stampede,” Saba reported.

A security official in Sanaa said that the authorities “arrested three merchants in connection with the incident.”

Commenting on the stampede, the Yemeni government’s Information Minister, Muammar Al-Iryani, said on Twitter: “We hold the criminal killers (…) who brought the situation to this tragic point, and turned the lives of millions of Yemenis into hell, fully responsible for this crime,” referring to Houthis.

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