A stampede at a Christian prayer gathering in Liberia's capital Monrovia has killed at least 29 people following an attack by armed thugs.

Residents who attended the event told local media the stampede began after a group of armed men rushed the crowd in an attempt to stage a robbery.
Residents who attended the event told local media the stampede began after a group of armed men rushed the crowd in an attempt to stage a robbery. (Twitter/ Liberia Public Radio (@rradio2019))

At least 29 people in Liberia, including 11 children and a pregnant woman, have died in a stampede of worshippers at a Christian ceremony in a densely populated area of the capital, Monrovia.

The stampede erupted when a gang of thugs armed with knives attacked some of the hundreds attending the ceremony at about 2100 GMT on Wednesday night, police spokesperson Moses Carter said.

He said the death toll was provisional and "may increase" because a number of people were in critical condition. 

One person has been arrested and an investigation is under way, he added.

Dixon Seebo, an elected representative from the poor suburb of New Kru Town where the stampede occurred, said that 11 children had been killed.

The bodies have been taken to the close-by morgue of Redemption Hospital.

President George Weah declared a three-day period of mourning and ordered an investigation, his office stated. He is expected to visit the scene Thursday, according to Liberian media reports.

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 'Zogo boys'

Local media reported that robbers wielding knives and machetes attacked the worshippers.

Gathering attendee Elisabeth Wesseh told AFP that "zogo boys", a local term for young criminals, had threatened worshippers with knives at the entrance, demanding money and telephones.

"We got afraid and started rushing to the door," the 34-year-old said, adding that the doorway was too small for everyone to get through.

"While running, some people dropped and others fell on the ground and walked over them," said another attendee, Exodus Morias.

Local media said the event was a Christian prayer gathering, known in Liberia as a "crusade."

Such gatherings typically gather thousands of people in Liberia, a highly religious country where a majority of the population of five million are Christians.

A stampede at a similar prayer event in the centre of Liberia in November 2021 killed two infants, and hospitalised several others, according to local media.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies