updated 10/2/2008 8:52:29 AM ET 2008-10-02T12:52:29

A stampede at an overcrowded dance hall in central Tanzania killed 20 children and left 50 others injured as they celebrated an important Muslim festival, police said Thursday.

At least 400 children aged 5 to 13 were inside the hall in the town of Tabora when the stampede occurred, regional police commander Daudi Siasa said. They were dancing to English and Kiswahili songs for the Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday.

"The children were trapped inside the hall, which has a capacity to accommodate maximum 200 people, but the number was more than the double inside at the time," he said.

Daytime children's dances, called "Toto Discos," were once banned in this East African nation but are still held occasionally, usually from noon to 6 p.m.

Celebrating end of festival
Wednesday's dance was held to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan in the prominently Muslim town, which is 460 miles northwest of Tanzania's largest city, Dar es Salaam.

President Jakaya Kikwete has sent condolences the children's families and dispatched a senior cabinet member to investigate. Families identified at least 16 victims and began funeral arrangements Thursday.

Law professor Jean Mwaikusa said the club's owner could face criminal negligence charges over the stampede.

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