Page last updated at 05:08 GMT, Saturday, 9 January 2010

Africa Cup of Nations to go ahead despite Togo attack

Emmanuel Adebayor tells the BBC African service it was 'one of the worst experiences of my life'

The organisers of the Africa Cup of Nations say it will take place despite the attack on the Togolese football team in the host country, Angola.

"Our first priority is the safety of the players, but the tournament will go ahead," said a spokesman for the Confederation of African Football.

The driver of the team's bus was killed and at least two players were wounded when it came under fire on Friday.

Separatists in the enclave of Cabinda have said they carried out the attack.

CAF said the Togolese Football Federation had failed to inform them that the team was travelling overland from its training camp in Congo-Brazzaville, through a dangerous area with no security. The body expressed surprise that the team had not travelled by air.

The Togolese players will decide on Saturday whether to play in the tournament.

'Armed to the teeth'

The team's captain, Emmanuel Adebayor, who plays for the English club Manchester City, told the BBC that Africa's image had suffered a big blow in a year when it will host the World Cup.

"We keep repeating [that] Africa, we have to change our image if we want to be respected, and unfortunately that is not happening," he said.

A lot of players want to leave - they have seen death and want to go back to their families
Emmanuel Adebayor

His fellow striker, Thomas Dossevi, said the team bus had been surrounded by police vehicles, five minutes after entering Cabinda, when it was attacked.

"Everything looked fine and we came under heavy fire. Everyone scrambled under the seats trying to protect themselves," he said.

"We were machine-gunned like dogs... They were armed to the teeth."

Adebayor said the team was trapped on bus for about 30 minutes while the security forces fought off the attackers. The players and staff then had to flee the bus under fire to get into the vehicles sent to rescue them, he said.

Oil-rich province cut off from the rest of Angola by DR Congo
Flec rebels fought for region's independence
Rebels laid down arms in 2006 but some unrest continues
Angola had dismissed concerns about staging games there

"I'm still under shock," Adebayor said. "I was one of those who carried the injured players into the hospital - that is when I realised what was really going on. All the players, everyone was crying, calling their mums, crying on the phone, saying their last words because they thought they'd be dead."

The Manchester City striker also cast doubt on Togo's participation in the tournament next week, saying that if security was not improved the players would probably be leaving on Saturday.

"It is a football game and one of the biggest tournaments in Africa, but I don't think people are ready to give their lives," he said. "A lot of players want to leave. They have seen death and want to go back to their families."

A total of nine people, including defender Serge Akakpo and goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale, were wounded in the attack. The other casualties were training, medical and administrative staff.

'Act of terrorism'

The separatist rebel Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (Flec), which has fought for independence for several decades but entered a ceasefire in 2006, later claimed responsibility for the attack.

"This operation is only the start of a series of targeted actions that will continue in all the territory of Cabinda," Flec secretary-general Rodrigues Mingas said.

The Angolan minister in charge of affairs in Cabinda, Antonio Bento Bembe, said the attack had been an "act of terrorism" and that the country would boost security for the Cup of Nations.

Angola had hoped the tournament, which runs from 10 to 31 January, would show how well it had recovered from decades of civil war

Football's world governing body, Fifa, said it had been deeply moved by the incident in Angola and offered its "utmost sympathy" to the Togo team.

Caf officials said they had not known that the Togolose team had decided to drive directly to Cabinda. They said they had expected the squad first to fly to the Angolan capital, Luanda, and from there to Cabinda.

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