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Mourning period after deadly stampede

Jan. 2, 2013 at 2:34 PM

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara declared three days of mourning and pledged a swift investigation into the stampede that killed 60 people.

In a statement issued by his office Tuesday, Ouattara also offered his "saddest condolences to the families and close relations of the victims and [assured] them of his compassion in those painful circumstances," CNN reported.

Chaos erupted after a New Year's Eve fireworks display in Abidjan, Ivory Coast's largest city and former capital. Killed in the stampede were 26 children, 28 women and six men, Youth Minister Alain Lobognon said on his Twitter page.

When it learned of the incident, the U.N. mission in the country sent medical first-responders to the location and said it would help provide assistance to the victims and help in the investigation.

Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko said the stampede occurred as people were trying to leave after the fireworks display ended in the city's central business district.

He said proper security measures were employed during the fireworks show and a cause for the stampede had yet to be determined.

"This tragic incident brought grief to the nation as citizens celebrated with joy the advent of 2013, which holds great hopes of peace-building, reconciliation, political and economic recovery and wellness for all," said Bert Koenders, head of the U.N. mission in the African country.

Before the events turned deadly, the country's official AIP news service said the celebration was seen by some as the country's symbolic return to peace. Ivory Coast experienced months of violence after disputed presidential elections in November 2010, when incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down after Ouattara was declared the winner.

Gbagbo was arrested five months later and is awaiting trial at The Hague, Netherlands, on accusations of crimes against humanity.

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