Togo footballers attacked in Angola
Armed men fire on bus carrying national team for the Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
Last Modified: 09 Jan 2010 08:14 GMT

Two players, two team doctors and a journalist were reportedly injured in the shooting [Reuters]

Armed men have opened fire on a bus carrying Togo's national football squad to the Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Angola, killing the driver and wounding at least two players, officials say.

The attack took place on Friday, shortly after the team passed into the Cabinda region, which is separated from the rest of Angola by a thin strip of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (Flec), which has been fighting for independence for three decades, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was aimed at the team's military escorts.

Angola as a whole is only just emerging from a 27-year civil war, which erupted shortly after it gained independence from Portugal and finally ended in 2002.

Thomas Dossevi, a Togo striker, told the RMC radio station that the team was "shot at like dogs" by hooded assailants who were "armed to the teeth".

"We had just crossed the border ... everything was fine. Then there was a powerful burst of gunfire," he said.

"Everyone dived under the seats and the police fired back. It felt like war had broken out. It's shocking."

High-profile players

Gabriel Ameyi, the Togo Football Federation vice-president, said players Obilale Kossi and Serge Akakpo had been wounded in the attack.

The Associated Press news agency reported that two team doctors and a journalist travelling with the squad had also been injured.

The attack comes just two days before the start of the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, the continent's biggest football event.

A spokesman for the tournament has said that it will go ahead despite the attack.

In depth


  Profile: Cabinda separatists

"Our great concern is for the players, but the championship goes ahead," Souleymane Habuba, a spokesman for the Confederation of African Football, said.

The Togo team had been training in DRC and were travelling to Angola by bus ahead of their match against Ghana on Monday.

Cabinda is scheduled to host seven matches in the tournament this month.

Karthi Gnanasegaram, Al Jazeera's sports correspondent in London, said some high-profile players, including captain Emmanuel Adebayor, who plays for the English club, Manchester City, were in the Togo team.

"We have spoken to Manchester City. They have told us he is definitely safe and he is unharmed, but he is obviously shaken by what has happened in the last few hours," she said.

Antonio Bento Bembe, Angola's minister without porfolio, who is in charge of Cabinda affairs, condemned the attack.

"This was an act of terrorism that is being dealt with as we speak," he told Reuters.

'Failed security'

Guy Momat, an independent Congolese journalist, told Al Jazeera that the Flec consider the Cabinda region to be a separate entity from the rest of Angola.

"We've got oil and timber in Cabinda and for years groups have been trying to take control of them for the profits."

Momat said that the unrest had subsided in recent years giving impetus to Angola staging the tournament.

Shadow of death on Africa's football year
By Paul Rhys
Flec signed a peace deal with Angola's government in 2006, but in recent months has claimed a spate of attacks on the military and foreign oil and construction workers in the province.

Keir Radnedge, a leading football author and a former editor of World Soccer magazine, told Al Jazeera that security arrangements in Angola had failed.
"The problem with any sports organisation is that they do rely on this [belief] that generally sports teams don't get attacked. Now obviously, that is something that is falling apart," he said.

"The situation speaks volumes about the difficulty of trying to protect any number of sports teams when they're travelling."
Radnedge said "this is one of the big worries concerning South Africa and the World Cup", referring to the forthcoming 2010 football tournament.

"This is probably the worst thing that could have happened at the start of the South African World Cup year."

Al Jazeera and agencies
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