Emanuel Adebayor on Togo football team bus ambushed by Angola gunmen(Guardian)
African football was in shock last night after gunmen attacked Togo's national squad, including the English Premier League player Emmanuel Adebayor, five months before the continent hosts its first World Cup.
The Togolese football team told how they crouched under their bus seats for 30 minutes as they were ambushed and "machine-gunned like dogs" by a gang in Angola. The attackers killed the driver and wounded nine others, including two players, as well as dealing a blow to Angola as it prepares to host its first African Nations Cup.
The tournament, due to begin tomorrow, is the continent's last big sporting showcase before 32 teams, including England, arrive in South Africa for the World Cup in June.
Adebayor, one of Manchester City's star players, and Aston Villa midfielder Moustapha Salifou were on the bus but both were unhurt. "I am OK but extremely shocked and very upset," Salifou said.
Adebayor said the attack took place en route to the team's base in Cabinda province and lasted 30 minutes. He was last night planning to convene a team meeting as captain at which the squad would discuss whether to stay in Angola or return to their clubs.
He told BBC Radio Five Live: "I think a lot of players want to leave. I don't think they want to be at this tournament any more because they have seen their death already.
"Most of the players want to go back to their family. No one can sleep after what they have seen today. They have seen one of their team-mates have a bullet in his body, who is crying, who is losing consciousness and everything.
"So we will have a good meeting tonight, everyone will go to their room, they will rest and we will see tomorrow morning we will make a decision which is good for our life."
Adebayor added: "We are still in shock. If the security is not sure then we will be leaving tomorrow. I don't think they will be ready to give their life. We will discuss everything as a team and we will take a decision that we think is good for our career, is good for our life and good for our family."
A separatist group, the Front for the Liberation of Enclave of Cabinda (Flec) last night claimed responsibility for the attack. An Angolan minister called it an "act of terrorism".
Thomas Dossevi, a Togo striker who plays for the French club Nantes, told the French radio station RMC: "They were armed to the teeth ... We were machine-gunned like dogs and had to remain hidden under our seats for around 20 minutes to avoid the bullets."
In a separate interview, Dossevi said: "We had just crossed the border five minutes before, we were surrounded by police buses, one in front of us another behind.
"Everything was fine and then there was a powerful burst of gunfire. Everyone threw themselves under the seats and tried to protect themselves but some couldn't escape the bullets.
"It [the attack] lasted a good 15 minutes. The police fired back, but really, it was hard to handle and it still is now."
I'm shocked. When we got off the bus we were asking ourselves why us and not others? We were asking ourselves what had happened, we were crying and thanking God."
The team was travelling from a training camp in Congo-Brazzaville. Their bus had just entered the Angolan enclave of Cabinda, where separatists have waged a three-decade long war, when it came under heavy gunfire for several minutes, a Togo team official said.
"The Angolan driver was killed on the spot," said a Togolese sports ministry spokesman, adding that the wounded included two squad members and two medics. Goalkeeper Obilale Kossi and central defender Serge Akakpo were among those hurt. The Romanian club FC Vaslui said on its website that the 22-year-old Akakpo was hit by two bullets and lost a lot of blood, but was now out of danger.
Midfielder Richmond Forson said the number of injuries could have been much higher had the gunmen not originally fired on the wrong bus.
"It was the bus carrying our baggage, which was in front of us, which they fired on the most," he told Canal Plus. "They thought we were in the bus in front."
Midfielder Alaixys Romao said the team had no appetite to take part in the competition. "If we can boycott it, let's do it," he told French TV channel Infosport. "It's just not on for us to be shot at because of a football match. All I can think about is stopping this competition and going home."
Mustapha Fahmy, the general secretary of the African Football Confederation, emerged from an emergency meeting of the confederation's executive committee to condemn the attack on the Togo team's bus. Fahmy said a delegation of Angolan cabinet ministers would fly to the northern enclave today.
Meanwhile, the Angolan Prime Minsiter Paulo Kassoma is due to hold talks with the AFC president, Issa Hayatou, to discuss security issues around the tournament.
The AFC was at pains to stress last night that the Togolese team did not follow its guidelines on travelling to host cities.
Suleimanu Habuba, director of communications for the AFC, said: "What the regulations state clearly is that all the teams fly to Luanda, or into their host city.
"At no point was the confederation told that the Togolese were going by road."
Togo is scheduled to kick off Group B on Monday against Ghana at Cabinda stadium. The Ghanian squad, which includes the Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien, has been in the city since Wednesday after flying from its training camp in South Africa. The president of the Ghana Football Association Kwesi Nyantakye said: "The players have been very happy in Cabinda. They have reported no problems. But if we have to move we will move and if we have to stay we are more than happy to stay we will follow the Confederation's guidance."
South Africa has faced its own questions over the potential threat of terrorism during the World Cup.
Rich Mkhondo, a spokesman for the local 2010 World Cup organising committee, said: "This year in South Africa our security establishment is ready for any eventuality. This is an isolated incident and can happen anywhere in the world."
Cabinda is a small enclave separated from the rest of Angola by a strip of land belonging to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The roots of the conflict between the government and FLEC are deep but one of the main grievances is that Cabindans see few benefits from the oil produced from their land. The simmering violence in Cabinda is separate from the larger civil war that broke out after independence from Portugal in 1975.
Human rights groups have accused the Angolan military of atrocities in Cabinda and claim government officials have embezzled millions of dollars in oil revenue. The government has denied the charges.
Antonio Bento Bembe, the Angolan minister in charge of affairs in Cabinda, said: "This was an act of terrorism."
But Bembe claimed it was not the work of FLEC rebels. "FLEC no longer exists, the attack comes from certain individuals who want to cause problems for us," he said.