Twenty-six people were crushed to death and 40 injured in a stampede at the famous 14th-century mud mosque in Mali's desert city, Timbuktu.
Crowds of pilgrims were circling the Djinguereber mosque, a ritual for the festival of Mouloud, the birthday of the Prophet Mohamed, on Thursday night. Witnesses said the accident happened at a bottleneck caused by renovation of the mosque.
Abdramane ben Essayouti, an imam, said: "People took to narrow alleys, there was jostling, and the tragedy occurred." Other witnesses described how people panicked in the overcrowded alleys, leading to a stampede. Amadou Toumani Toure, Mali's President, was en route to Timbuktu from the capital Bamako, a statement from his office said. Timbuktu was a renowned intellectual and religious centre during the 15th and 16th centuries, helping to spread Islam throughout Africa. The town and its monuments are Unesco World Heritage Sites.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies