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38 girls and young women reported killed in Swaziland highway crash

38 girls and young women reported killed in Swaziland highway crash
Tens of thousands of Swaziland girls dance and sing as they walk to the royal palace ahead of the traditional reed dance on Aug. 28, 2015. (Gianluigi Guercia / AFP/Getty Images)

At least 38 girls and young women were killed in a highway crash while traveling to a major traditional festival in Swaziland, a rights group said Saturday.

About 20 others were injured when the open truck they were riding in collided with another vehicle on Friday, the Swaziland Solidarity Network rights group said in a statement.

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Police in Swaziland, a small mountainous country of 1.4 million people bordering northeastern South Africa and Mozambique, discouraged reporting on the accident, the group said. Photographers were prevented from taking pictures at the scene, said a Swazi journalist who insisted on anonymity for security reasons.

The females were traveling on a highway between the cities of Mbabane and Manzini when the truck smashed into another vehicle and was then hit from behind by another truck, the Times of Swaziland reported.

"We were about 50 on board the first truck that smashed into the Toyota van," said Siphelele Sigudla, 18, a survivor quoted by the newspaper.

The group was on its way to the Swazi king's royal residence for the annual reed dance. About 40,000 people participate in the eight-day festival in which they sing and dance, often bare-breasted, as they bring reeds to reinforce the windbreak around the royal residence, a government website said. Swaziland is Africa's last absolute monarchy.

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