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20 killed in Niger in food distribution stampede: medical source

Niamey (AFP) - Twenty people, many of them women and children, were trampled to death on Monday in a stampede for food and money for refugees in southeast Niger, sources said.

"We have a provisional toll of 20 dead," a medical source said. Aid workers confirmed the account and said about 10 people had been injured.

The accident occurred at a youth and culture centre in Diffa, the main town of a region of that name that abuts Nigeria and Chad.

The region has been repeatedly hit by attacks by Nigeria's Boko Haram jihadist group since 2015.

It hosts 119,000 Nigerian refugees, 109,000 internally-displaced people, and 30,000 Nigeriens who have returned to Nigeria because of instability there, according to UN figures released October.

The aid being distributed had been given by Babagana Umara Zulum, the governor of Borno state in northeast Nigeria, a Nigerian official told AFP.

He had come to the region to visit camps for refugees and the displaced, and had already left the town when the stampede occurred.

- Crowd -

"They were distributing food and money -- 5,000 naira ($13.75, 12.7 euros) per person," a local resident told AFP, referring to Nigeria's national currency.

"Thousands of people, most of them refugees, heard about the handout and left the camps, sometimes travelling up to 100 kilometres (60 miles) to get to Diffa," the source said.

A local official said he was astonished at the situation. "Normally, people who are entitled to the handouts send a representative to Diffa to pick it up. But this time, the refugees themselves decided to come and get it, travelling dozens of kilometres (miles)."

Another resident said: "Even ordinary inhabitants of Diffa rushed there in the hope of getting the handout."

A large amount of food, cooking oil and clothing, as well as the money, was due to be distributed, a Diffa municipal worker told AFP.

"Thousands of people were in the courtyard of the MJC (Culture and Youth Centre) and nearby," he said. Read More

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