26 dead in Timbuktu mosque stampede

BAMAKO Fri Feb 26, 2010 9:12am EST

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BAMAKO (Reuters) - Twenty-six people were crushed to death in a stampede near a mosque in Mali's desert city of Timbuktu, a government spokesman said Friday.

The incident occurred Thursday night during the Muslim festival of Maouloud.

"There were 26 killed and 40 wounded," Interior Ministry spokesman Oumar Sangare told Reuters by phone. Local police earlier had said 15 died and 41 were injured.

Imam Abdramane ben Essayouti said the stampede occurred as crowds heading to pray at the Djingareyber mosque -- one of the most recognizable buildings in Timbuktu -- encountered roads barricaded by construction work.

"People took to narrow alleys, there was jostling, and the tragedy occurred," he said.

Mali's President Amadou Toumani Toure was en route to Timbuktu from the capital Bamako, according to a statement from his office.

(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; writing by Richard Valdmanis; editing by Michael Roddy)

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