11 killed in stampede as Afghans seek Pakistan visas

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Afghans bring a man injured in a stampede to a hospital, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Tameem Akhgar, Associated Press

At least 11 women were trampled to death when a stampede broke out among thousands of Afghans waiting in a football stadium to get visas to leave the country, officials said.

Governor Attaullah Khogyani said 13 other people, mostly women, were injured at the stadium in eastern Nangarhar province, where they were trying to get visas to enter neighbouring Pakistan.

He said most of those who died were elderly people from across Afghanistan.


Afghans wait to collect their passports with Pakistani visas in the city of Jalalabad east of Kabul, Afghanistan (Wali Sabawoon/AP)

In a separate incident, at least 36 Afghan police were killed in an ambush by Taliban militants in northern Afghanistan, according to a local hospital official.

It was the deadliest attack since the Taliban and the Afghan government began holding long-delayed peace talks last month, part of a process launched under a deal signed between the United States and the insurgents in February.

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The talks are seen as the country’s best chance for peace after decades of war.

Rahim Bakhish Danish, director of the main hospital in Takhar province, confirmed receiving 36 bodies and said another eight security force members were wounded.

An Afghan security official said the forces were in a convoy that was ambushed.

The official added that several police Humvees were set on fire.

Jawad Hijri, a spokesman for the provincial government, said the deputy police chief was among those killed.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack.


Ashraf Ghani hit out at the Taliban during a parliament session in Kabul (Mariam Zuhaib/AP)

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, speaking to Parliament, asked: “Why are the Taliban killing Afghans?”

He said the Taliban still believe in a “false narrative of conquest” after a spate of recent attacks, especially in Helmand province.

The Pakistani Consulate in Nangarhar was closed for almost eight months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Anticipating a large crowd, officials decided to use the stadium and assigned 320 staff to help manage the process, Mr Khogyani said.

The Pakistani Embassy in Kabul said it has issued more than 19,000 visas in the past week alone after Islamabad approved a friendlier visa policy and reopened the border in September following months of closure.

Millions of Afghans have fled to Pakistan to escape war and economic hardship, while thousands travel back and forth for work and business, or to receive healthcare.

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