Togo recalls team after fatal attack on bus, govt tells FRANCE 24
Togo's national football team has pulled out of the Africa Cup of Nations after a fatal attack Friday on the team's bus killed at least two members of its delegation, Togolese government spokesman Pascal Bodjona tells FRANCE 24.
AFP - Togo pulled out of the African Nations Cup on Saturday after at least two people were killed in a rebel ambush on its squad's convoy, despite Angola's efforts to allay security concerns ahead of kick-off.
"The Togolese government has decided to recall its team," Togolese government spokesman Pascal Bodjona said.
"We cannot in such a dramatic circumstance continue the African Nations Cup competition. This is necessary because the players are in shock."
Togo's assistant coach and its squad spokesman died Friday after hooded gunmen opened fire as the team's buses crossed into the restive Angolan enclave of Cabinda, according to the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
The attack was claimed by a separatist group embroiled in a struggle for independence in the oil-rich territory.
Prime Minister Paulo Kassoma met with Confederation of African Football president Issa Haytou in Luanda to reassure player safety ahead of the opening match of Africa's largest football festival on Sunday.
"The prime minister considers the incident in Cabinda as an isolated act and repeated that the security of Togo's team and the other squads is guaranteed," his office said in a statement.
It added that victims of the attack have "received the best medical care."
Football teams competing in the 22-day tournament nonetheless expressed deep unease about the shooting but backed the decision to continue.
Officials were in Cabinda on Saturday to review security and investigate the attack which was initially reported to have wounded nine in the Togo squad, including two players.
CAF official Kodjo Samlan said earlier reports that one of the bus drivers had been killed were incorrect.
Players and others on board, fearing for their lives, cowered under seats for 20 minutes to escape the hail of bullets. Squad member Thomas Dossevi said they had been "fired on like dogs."
"We are all a little shocked and we're asking why CAF (the competition organisers) were holding games in Cabinda. How can you organise a tournament in a state of war?" Dossevi told AFP Saturday.
On Saturday evening, goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale was in a stable condition in a Johannesburg hospital where he was expected to undergo surgery after being airlifted to South Africa.
"He is conscious and in a stable condition. He has suffered two gunshoot wounds to the lower back and abdomen," said doctor Richard Friedland, head of the private Milpark Hospital where the 25-year-old was admitted.
Organisers said the games would proceed as planned.
"CAF is continuing with its schedule and the sovereign authorities of the country (Angola) are taking the adequate measures surrounding security," said Constant Omari, a member of the local organising committee.
Togo and Aston Villa midfielder Moustapha Salifou, one of two English Premiership players who were uninjured, told his club's website that team would seek permission from the Togo and African officials to leave the tournament.
"No one wants to play. We just want to go home," he said. "We have made our decision as players. We can't play in these circumstances and we want to leave for home today."
The armed wing of the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda, which wants for independence for Cabinda, which is physically split from the rest of Angola by a strip of the Democratic Republic of Congo, claimed responsibility for the attack.
"This operation is only the start of a series of targeted actions," it warned on Friday.
CAF spokesman Souleymane Habuba questioned why Togo opted to travel by road.
"CAF's regulations are clear: teams are required to fly rather than travel by bus," he said, adding: "Our great concern is for the players, but the championship goes ahead."