Togo withdraw from AFCON

2010-01-09 18:16
A picture grabbed on the Televisao Publico de Angola channel shows unidentified players of the Togolese national football team comforting each other. (AFP)
Cabinda - Togo's national soccer team, devastated by a shooting attack on its bus that killed at least three people, withdrew from the African Cup of Nations on Saturday.

The bus was in Angola about six miles from the border of Congo when the gunfire began. When the ambush ended, 30 minutes later, the driver was dead and the team's assistant coach and spokesperson mortally wounded. It was not immediately clear if the convoy was targeted. The attackers fled back into Congo after the ambush, which also left at least eight players gravely injured, officials said.

Angola's government blamed the region's main separatist group, the FLEC, who also took responsibility for the attack, according to reports from Portugal's state-run Lusa news agency.

"The championship will go on" despite the attack and the absence of Togo's team, said Angola's Sports Minister Goncalves Muandumba, whose government is hoping the tournament will give the country a chance to show it is recovering from decades of war.

Togo Football Federation vice president Gabriel Ameyi said the team should have flown to Angola instead of driving.

The team decided to withdraw from the continent-wide tournament on Saturday, said Manchester City, the team of top player Emmanuel Adebayor who is also captain of the Togo team.

Kossi Agassa - goalie for French club Istres - told France-Info radio by phone that a Togo assistant coach and a spokesperson were killed in the attack. Agassa said that a second goalie was gravely wounded and taken to South Africa for treatment.

Dr. Fraser Lamond of medical assistance provider International SOS, said one of the injured died before an air ambulance could transport him to South Africa. It was not immediately clear if he was referring to the goalie.

Angola's Information Minister Manuel Rabelais said Friday that eight team members and one Angolan were injured. Ameyi named defender Serge Akakpo and backup goalkeeper Obilale Kossi as among those hurt. In Togo, the government said the Angolan driver was killed.

Ivory Coast general manager Kaba Kone told The Associated Press on Saturday that his team was "shocked and are living through very hard times" but never considered pulling out of the tournament.

He said the Ivorian players visited their Togolese counterparts late Friday to express their sympathy.

No security forces were apparent guarding the Ivory Coast team's hotel in Cabinda on Saturday, but Kone said CAF and tournament organisers are stepping up their measures to guarantee safety.

"This event can still be a big party," he said.

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