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Seoul police chief indicted over Halloween crush

FILE PHOTO: Halloween crush kills holiday spirit in Itaewon

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean prosecutors have indicted the head of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency​, charging him with contributing through negligence to the Halloween crowd crush in Seoul in 2022​ that killed nearly 160 people, according to the Seoul Western District Prosecutors Office.

The indictment of Seoul police chief Kim Kwang-ho came more than a year after the crowd crush in October 2022, which killed 159 people on a Halloween weekend in the entertainment district of Itaewon in capital Seoul. Kim is the highest-ranking police official charged in connection with the crowd crush.

The annual festivities in the popular nightlife area of Itaewon turned deadly on Oct. 29 after tens of thousands of young revellers crowded into narrow alleyways to celebrate the first Halloween free of COVID curbs in three years.

Authorities, including the police, did not devise safety measures even though dense crowds made an accident likely, and did not take appropriate steps after calls for rescue started coming in, according to the investigation team.

In January last year, a special investigation team referred Kim and 22 other police, rescue and district office officials to the prosecution on charges related to the government's inadequate response to the stampede.

(Reporting by Heekyong Yang; editing by Giles Elgood)