Gunmen yesterday fired on a bus carrying Togo’s football team to the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola, wounding players and reportedly killing the driver.
The attackers machine-gunned the vehicle after it crossed from the Republic of Congo into Angola’s oil-rich territory of Cabinda.
Rebels who have been fighting for the region’s independence later said they had carried out the attack.
The organisers of the tournament, which starts on Sunday, say it will go ahead.
The Angolan government called the incident an “act of terrorism”.
The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (Flec), which said it carried out the attack, has fought for independence for several decades, but entered a ceasefire in 2006.
In a statement quoted by Portugal’s Lusa news agency, the group said: “This operation is only the start of a series of targeted actions that will continue in all the territory of Cabinda.”
Togo is due to play its first cup game in Cabinda on Monday. The Confederation of African Football confirmed that the tournament would go ahead as planned, despite the violent attack.
Angolan Sports Minister Goncalves Muandumba said security for the competition would be stepped up to guarantee “all the conditions necessary for the success, tranquillity and security of the people and their belongings”.
Nine people, including at least two players, were wounded during the shooting, reports said. Central defender Serge Akakpo was among those hurt and back-up goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale was also reportedly injured.
The team’s communications manager was among those seriously wounded in the shooting.
Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor was also on the bus but is unhurt. Speaking to the BBC, he described the incident as “one of the worst experiences of his life”.
“I’m still under shock,” Mr Adebayor said. “I was one of those who carried the injured players into the hospital – that is when I realised what was really going on. All the players, everyone was crying, calling their mums, crying on the phone, saying their last words because they thought they’d be dead.”
The bus was travelling to Cabinda from the squad’s training ground in the Republic of Congo when the shooting happened.
Football’s highest governing body, Fifa, said it was troubled by the incident.
“Fifa and its president, Joseph S Blatter, are deeply moved by today’s incidents which affected Togo’s national team, to whom they express their utmost sympathy,” the body said in a statement.
Competition officials said they had not known that the Togolose team had decided to drive directly to Cabinda.
They said they had expected the squad first to fly to the Angolan capital, Luanda, and from there to Cabinda.
Shot ‘like dogs’
The head of the Togolese football federation told AFP news agency that the driver had died.
Togo striker Thomas Dossevi told France’s RMC radio that several players were “in a bad state” after the attack.
“We were machine-gunned, like dogs,” he said. “At the border with Angola – machine-gunned! I don’t know why. I thought it was some rebels. We were under the seats of the bus for 20 minutes, trying to get away from the bullets.”
Togo’s first game in the tournament is due to be against Ghana on Monday.
But midfielder Alaixys Romao told RMC the team was likely to pull out of the 16-nation cup.
“No-one wants to play,” he said. “We’re not capable of it.
“We’re thinking first of all about the health of our injured because there was a lot of blood on the ground.”
[ BBC NEWS]