Togo attack preventable

2010-01-20 21:13
A TV still from just after the deadly attack. (AFP)

Luanda - The deadly attack on the Togo team bus could have been avoided, the Africa Cup of Nations' local organising committee (COCAN) insisted on Wednesday.

Togo's assistant coach and its squad spokesperson were killed when the team's convoy was ambushed by separatist guerillas in the Angolan enclave of Cabinda after it had crossed the border from Congo on January 8.

But COCAN said the deadly attack need not have happened if Togo had communicated their travel plans to Africa Cup of Nations' organisers beforehand.

COCAN director general Justino Fernandes told a press conference at Luanda's 11 November stadium they did not have any idea the Togo team were travelling by road rather than flying into the northern oil-rich province.

He said Togo had ignored advice from the continent's ruling football body, the Confederation of African Football, to fly into Cabinda.

"Togo had used the Congo for their training base and then travelled to Cabinda by bus. Neither CAF nor the local organising committee here in Luanda were aware of their travel plans," Fernandes said.

Fernandes, who is also president of the Angolan Football Federation, added that COCAN had been surprised at Togo's decision to enter Angola by road.

"If we had been told we would have certainly put an aeroplane at the disposal of the Togo team to fly them from the Congo to Cabinda.

"We were not aware that they had entered the country by road."

Despite his assertion Fernandes would not be drawn when asked at the press conference why, if they were unaware, there was heavy security accompanying the Togo team's convoy into Angola.

Angolan security forces were engaged in a 20-minute gun battle with the separatists in the incident which cast a deep shadow over the 2010 competition.

Togo, on the advice of their national government, withdrew from the competition.

On Saturday more than 1 000 people joined a march organised by the ruling MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) to condemn the shooting which has been claimed by several factions of the separatist movement FLEC (Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Angola).

FLEC has been fighting for independence of Cabinda for more than three decades and despite a peace deal in 2006, continues to wage low level attacks in the province.

Togo goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale, injured in the shooting attack, is responding well to treatment but remains hospitalised in South Africa, a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Angolan police have made a number of arrests in the wake of the attack.


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