Government investigates deaths of 12 soccer fans after African Cup qualifier

The government started an investigation into the deaths of 12 soccer fans crushed as they tried to leave a stadium after Zambia's victory over Republic of Congo in an African Cup qualifier.

Sports minister Gabriel Namulambe visited Konkola Stadium in the northern Copperbelt mining town of Chililabombwe and said the government had also ordered the Zambian Football Association to take urgent steps to ensure there was no repeat of the tragedy.

"At the end of the soccer match we all thought everything had ended well, only to be shocked with the news that 12 fans had died after the match," Namulambe said on the evening bulletin of state owned Television Zambia.

He said the victims were caught up in a stampede that was started by a group of fans who had wanted to re-enter the stadium at a time when the main body of more than 30,000 other fans were fighting to get out.

Namulambe said the Zambian government has set up a committee to investigate the circumstances and had ordered it to report back by next Friday.

He said the government would pay for the funeral expenses of all the dead. Up to 50 people sustained slight injuries, but only one remained hospitalized late Sunday.

The official Sunday Times newspaper said the dead were 9 men and 3 women.

The President of the Confederation of African Football, Issa Hayatou, sent a message of condolences to the Zambian government.

Zambia won the match 3-0 to send it into second position in its qualifying group. The match should have started at 3 p.m. but was delayed for an hour because of the late arrival of the referee.

There was more confusion afterward at a hospital as family members tried to identify the deceased, prompting local police to send in 50 extra officers to control the grieving crowd.