Attack on Togo team will hurt image of Africa: star Adebayor
Squads told not to travel by bus, say organisers as two more die from injuries
Two members of Togo's national soccer team delegation died yesterday following an ambush on the team's bus as it travelled to the African Nations Cup in Angola.
The bus was in Cabinda, 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 spokesman were mortally wounded. The attackers fled back into Congo after the ambush, which left at least eight players gravely injured, officials said.
Togolese officials named the dead men as media officer Stanislas Ocloo and assistant coach Amalete Abalo, and said reserve goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale had been evacuated to Johannesburg for treatment.
The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (Flec) claimed responsibility for the attack.
"The championship will go on," said Angola's sports minister Goncalves Muandumba, whose government hopes the tournament will give the country a chance to show it's recovering from decades of war.
Togo Football Federation vice-president Gabriel Ameyi said the team should have flown to Angola. Virgilio Santos, an official with the African Nations Cup organising committee Cocan, said teams had been told explicitly not to travel to the tournament by road.
"We asked that all delegations inform us when they would arrive and provide the passport number of their players," he told the sports weekly A Bola. "Togo was the only team not to respond and did not inform Cocan it was coming by bus . . . No team should travel by bus. I don't know what led them to do this."
The attack came five months before neighbouring South Africa hosts the World Cup, the first African nation to hold the world's biggest single sport event.
Togo has decided to withdraw from the tournament, said Manchester City's Emmanuel Adebayor, who is also captain of the team. A shaken Adebayor, who escaped unharmed, said the attack would hurt the image of Africa. "We keep repeating: 'Africa, we have to change our image if we want to be respected' and unfortunately that is not happening," Adebayor told the BBC World Service.
"A lot of players want to leave. They have seen death and want to go back to their families."
Cabinda is responsible for half of oil production in Angola, which rivals Nigeria as Africa's biggest producer. The Togo team bus, travelling from its training ground in the Republic of Congo, had just entered the enclave, geographically cut off from the rest of Angola, when it came under heavy gunfire.
A meeting was expected to take place in the Angolan capital Luanda between local officials and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) over tournament security.
Former Togo coach Otto Pfister said the assault would cast a shadow over the World Cup. "This is a real blow for Africa. It will obviously be linked directly with the World Cup now," he told the German sports news agency SID. "And it will give the critics a boost." South Africa has spent at least 13 billion rand (€1.2bn) on new stadiums and infrastructure for the World Cup.
Rich Mkhondo, chief spokesman for the World Cup organising committee, said the attack had no relevance to the World Cup. "We remain confident that everyone coming to South Africa will have a safe and secure experience in our country," he said.
South African President Jacob Zuma will attend Sunday's opening ceremony despite the attack, his spokesman said.
The CAF has said the Nations Cup, which ends on January 31, will go ahead and there has been no official suggestion that matches will be pulled from Cabinda.