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Over 50 killed in stampede at Yemen election rally
Cat : Condolences Of Today
Date : 2006-09-13 14:31:55                      Reader : 399
We express our heartily condolences to families of martyrs. But no violence at all till now happened ahead of elections. We reject vigorously the news that states Yemen is already marred by violence.

Associated France Press (AFP) 13/9/2006

Over 50 killed in stampede at Yemen election rally


by Hammoud Mounassar

SANAA (AFP) - More than 50 people were crushed to death in a stampede at an overcrowded stadium in southern Yemen during an election rally by President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a week ahead of polls already marred by violence.

The stampede occurred when tens of thousands of people tried to gain entry into the sports stadium at the town of Ibb which was already crammed with some 100,000 rallygoers, witnesses said.

A statement published by the official SABA news agency said 51 people had been killed and 238 wounded, though most of the injured had left hospital after treatment.

The stampede at Ibb, around 180 kilometers (115 miles) south of Sanaa, began 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, with some 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 southeast Yemen Sunday in a bid to put pressure on authorities to free jailed members of their tribe. On Tuesday, they threatened to kill their hostages if authorities attempted to use force to free them.

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 August in a shootout between supporters of GPC and Common Forum local candidates in Jawf, 180 kilometers (115 miles) north of Sanaa.

A nephew of independent presidential hopeful Ahmad al-Majeedi was killed August 28 while organizing a rally for his uncle in Lahij in southwest Yemen.

Authorities meanwhile dispatched security reinforcements to Shabwa province, where the four French tourists were abducted along with a Yemeni translator, a source close to local officials said.

"Large numbers of army troops and security forces were sent Monday night to the zone in Shabwa where the captors are holding the hostages," some 60 kilometers (35 miles) from Ataq, where they were kidnapped, the source said.

He did not make clear if this was a prelude to a raid on the captors' hideout in a bid to free the four Frenchmen, but said authorities were continuing negotiations with the kidnappers in an effort to obtain their safe release.

"We are disappointed that the negotiations were not successful this evening," a French diplomat in Sanaa was quoted as saying by the SABA news agency.

"We trust our Yemeni partners will restart talks tomorrow."

A tribal source said the kidnappers were members of the Al-Abdullah bin Daham tribe which also abducted a German family of five last December.

The tribesmen abducted the French tourists in protest at the authorities' failure to keep promises to release jailed members of their tribe in exchange for freeing the German family at the time, the source said.

More than 200 foreigners have been kidnapped in Yemen in the past 15 years, particularly between 1991 and 2001.

The hostages have generally been released unharmed, but three Britons and an Australian seized by Islamist militants were killed when security forces stormed their hideout in December 1998.

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