Angola suspends stampede church

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iol news pic stampede Reuters File image - Angolan authorities have suspended an evangelical movement following a deadly New Year's Eve stadium stampede in which 16 people died. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

Luanda - Angolan authorities have suspended an evangelical movement following a deadly New Year's Eve stadium stampede, state media reported Monday.

Pastors turned away worshippers at the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God on Sunday, after the government imposed the 60-day ban, according to the Jornal de Angola.

The church, better known by it's Portuguese abbreviation IURD, is at the centre of a criminal investigation after 16 people were killed in a stampede at a New Year's Eve prayer meeting at a massively overcrowded stadium in the capital Luanda.

“The stadium could hold only 30 000 people, but the IURD hosted 152 600 people at the event,” the government said in a statement announcing the ban.

Church officials had previously indicated it was an 80 000-seater stadium.

Authorities slammed the Brazilian church's advertisement for the miracle service as false and likely to alarm the “public spirit”.

Evangelical churches have attracted a huge following among Angola's poor.

The country is traditionally Catholic, an inheritance of its Portuguese colonial history, and around a million faithful attended a 2009 visit of Pope Benedict XVI. - Sapa-AFP

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