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Premier League star Adebayor tells of his terror as Togo team bus is attacked in gun ambush

The Africa Cup of Nations got off to the worst possible start last night when unidentified gunmen attacked the Togolese team bus, reportedly killing the driver and wounding nine others, including two players.

The West African team includes Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor, but he was not among the injured players, according to officials at the Premier League club.

The government in Angola, where the tournament had been due to kick off tomorrow, denounced what it called an "act of terrorism".

Adebayor revealed the attack en route to the team's base in the Cabinda province lasted 30 minutes, saying: "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.

"No-one can sleep after what they have seen. They have seen one of their team-mates have a bullet in his body, who is crying, who is losing consciousness and everything.

"Everyone will go to their room, they will rest and we will see.



WEAPONS

"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. 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."

Speaking after the attack Togo player Thomas Dossevi described a terrifying ordeal as heavily-armed assailants fired automatic weapons at the bus.

"We were machine-gunned, even though we had two coaches of police escorting us," he said. The midfielder, who plays his club football with Nantes in France, said that goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale and defender Serge Akakpo were among those injured.

The team were travelling from their training base in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo to the north Angolan enclave of Cabinda when the attack happened.

They had been due to play their first match on Monday against Ghana but, while the Angolan authorities were insisting that the tournament would go ahead, the Togolese last night threatened to withdraw from the competition.

Dossevi said that the group had just passed through immigration control into Angola when the shooting started.

"Players received bullets in the abdomen and the driver was hit," he added. He said Akakpo "took a bullet in the back" and that Obilale was "bleeding a lot". An official from the sports ministry in the Togolese capital, Lome, said the team's Angolan driver had been "killed on the spot".

The separatist group the Front for the Liberation of Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) claimed responsibility for the attack last night. Cabinda, separated from the rest of Angola by a sliver of DR Congo, has been blighted by three decades of fighting between a separatist group and the government.

Antonio Bento Bembe, Angola's minister without portfolio who is in charge of Cabinda affairs, said an investigation had been launched. "This was an act of terrorism that is being dealt with as we speak," he said.

There have been serious doubts about the wisdom of staging Africa's top football tournament in Angola, which is still recovering from decades of civil war. The vast, oil-rich African nation was seeking to use the tournament to showcase its new-found wealth and status after overtaking Nigeria as the continent's leading oil producer. But preparations had been hit by delays and a chronic lack of infrastructure.

Cabinda, which is sandwiched between the two Congo states, is Angola's main oil-producing region. Human rights groups have accused the military of a string of atrocities in the enclave and claim government officials have embezzled millions. The government has denied the charges.

The attack will also add to pressure on the World Cup host, South Africa, which is spending heavily to ensure security ahead of the tournament in June. However, sub-Saharan Africa's largest economy has incomparably better infrastructure than its war-devastated near neighbour to the north.

Togo, which played at the 2006 World Cup, did not qualify for this year's finals.

Many of Togo's players ply their trade in the French league but the two footballers who play in England, Adebayor and Aston Villa's Moustapha Salifou, were both unhurt.

"Club officials have spoken with Adebayor and though shaken by the terrible events, he is unharmed," Manchester City said in a statement. The African Football Confederation condemned the attack and held an emergency meeting.

"The Angolan authority deployed immediately a team down there to assess the exact situation," CAF said in a statement.

A delegation of Angolan officials and a delegation from CAF will be heading to Cabinda today while the Angolan Prime Minister will meet CAF president Issa Hayatou "to take decisions to guarantee the smooth running of the competition."

CAF also expressed its "total support as well as sympathy to the entire Togolese delegation."

FIFA also expressed "utmost sympathy" in a statement, and expected a report from CAF.

The tournament will still go ahead as planned, said a senior member of the local organising committee, who spoke on condition of anonymity.



Struggling

He said Ivory Coast, considered the top African team, arrived early yesterday in Cabinda, where Togo was also to be based as part of Group B. Burkina Faso had been there since January 2, and Ghana was the other group member.

Togo was due to play in the opening group match on Monday against Ghana.

Even if the tournament goes ahead, the attack is a major blow to host Angola.

Angola has been struggling to climb back from decades of violence, and its government was clearly banking on the tournament as a chance to show the world it was on the way to recovery. A building boom fuelled by oil wealth has included new stadiums in Cabinda and three other cities for the tournament.

The attack on Togo was the second major gun attack on a sports team in less than a year. Several players were injured and six policemen killed when gunmen fired on the Sri Lanka cricket team's bus in Lahore, Pakistan, in March 2009.

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