CABINDA, Angola (AP) - Togo's government wants an apology from
Angola and African Cup of Nations organizers for sending its soccer
team into unruly Cabinda, where gunmen killed two team officials
and the bus driver.
A day after Togo's bus was fired on with machine guns shortly
after crossing from Congo into Angola, Togo government spokesman
Pascal Bodjona said Saturday it was difficult to understand why
Angolan authorities chose Cabinda to host African Cup matches when
it knew "the area was a dangerous and risky zone."
It was unclear whether Togo would remain in the tournament.
Forward Thomas Dossevi told The Associated Press in a phone
interview Saturday that the team would pull out of the competition
and fly out of Angola early Sunday. But midfielder Alaixys Romao
told L'Equipe the team had decided to play.
"The entire delegation just met and, after all, we'll be on the
pitch Monday to play against Ghana," Romao said in a story on the
French sports daily's Web site.
Efforts by the AP to reach a tournament spokesman and Dossevi
after L'Equipe's report were unsuccessful.
Speaking in the Togo capital Lome, Bodjona said Saturday nobody
informed his country that it was hazardous to travel by road to
Cabinda. He also demanded an apology from the Angola government and African Cup officials.
The ambush killed an assistant coach, a team spokesperson, and
the Angolan bus driver, according to the team and Togo government.
At least two players had gunshot wounds.
"People died for this tournament, others were injured. We can't
abandon them and leave like cowards," Romao told L'Equipe. "If we
stay here, it's for them. But also so as not to give satisfaction
to the rebels.
"Our government doesn't necessarily agree with us but we are
determined to play in this competition. The decision was taken
Unrest associated with Cabinda, a northern enclave cut off from
the rest of Angola by a strip of Congo, had been at low levels. The
main separatist group was the Front for the Liberation of the
Enclave of Cabinda, or FLEC. The Angolan information minister
blamed the group for the attack.
Portugal's state-run Lusa news agency said FLEC claimed
responsibility in a message on Friday. In a statement e-mailed to
The Associated Press on Saturday, the civilian arm of the
separatist group did not claim responsibility for what it called an
"unfortunate incident," but said it was irresponsible of
organizers to have ignored warnings from separatists that matches
should not be held in Cabinda.
Confederation of African Football president Issa Hayatou said he
received guarantees from Angola Prime Minister Antonio Paulo
Kassoma on Saturday that security will be increased at all venues,
at the request of all teams.
Following that meeting, Hayatou and most of the CAF leadership
flew to Cabinda and agreed with Angolan officials to play all
scheduled matches there.
Then they met with the teams based in Cabinda: Togo, Ivory
Coast, Burkina Faso and Ghana.
"In case you decide to leave the competition," Hayatou told
Togo, "we will definitely understand your decision and it will be
accepted. It is a difficult choice - individual and collective -
and you are the only ones who can decide."
Though Africa's soccer championship will open as planned on
Sunday, other teams remained shocked and worried by the ambush.
"We have goose bumps ... who knows what is going to happen to
us," Mozambique assistant Amade Chababe told AP Television News
when the squad passed through Johannesburg en route to Angola on
Ivory Coast was "shocked and are living through very hard
times" but not considering pulling out, general manager Kaba Kone
told the AP. He said the Ivorian players visited Togo late Friday
to express their sympathy.
In South Africa, the local World Cup organizing committee said
the attack had no relevance to the soccer showcase starting in
June. Spokesman Rich Mkhondo said organizers viewed Friday's attack
as an isolated incident.
"We wish to state that there is no link between what happened
in Angola and South Africa's preparations to host the 2010 FIFA
World Cup," Mkhondo said. "We also cannot compare organization
and security in Angola with South Africa just because the two
countries happen to be in the same region in the world."
FIFA president Sepp Blatter expressed his support for African
soccer, and offered FIFA's backing to CAF in a letter on Saturday
Blatter said he looked forward with confidence to FIFA and CAF
organizing the World Cup.
Togo captain Emmanuel Adebayor said that soon after their convoy
entered Cabinda, "from nowhere gunmen began to open fire on our
bus." He said the gunfire lasted 30 minutes before Angolan
soldiers turned back the assailants.
Togo goalkeeper Kossi Agassa told France-Info radio that an
assistant coach and a spokesperson died and a second goalkeeper was badly wounded. Kodjovi "Dodji" Obilale, the injured goalkeeper
who also plays for French club Pontivy, was flown to South Africa
where he underwent surgery for injuries to his back, said club
president Philippe Le Mestre by telephone from western France.
Richard Friedland, CEO of Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, said
Obilale suffered two gunshot wounds to the lower back and will
undergo surgery late Saturday.
"He is fully receptive. He understands where he is," Friedland