2 Separatists Held in Attack on Togo Soccer Team

By: Samuel Petrequin, Ebow Godwin, Donna Bryson, Barry Hatton, & Jamey Keaten - AP Writers
By: Samuel Petrequin, Ebow Godwin, Donna Bryson, Barry Hatton, & Jamey Keaten - AP Writers

CABINDA, Angola (AP) - Authorities have arrested two separatists
in Angola's restive Cabinda region following a shooting attack on
the Togolese national soccer team that killed three people, a
prosecutor announced.

According to Monday's brief statement from Antonio Nito, the
prosecutor in charge of Cabinda province, two unidentified members
of the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda forces,
or FLEC, were captured Sunday near the site of Friday's shooting.

A FLEC leader reportedly in exile in France claimed
responsibility Monday, but said his group had been targeting
Angolan troops escorting the Togolese team.

"In war, anything can happen, this is only the beginning,"
Rodrigues Mingas, who calls himself the group's leader, told
France-Info radio.

Another FLEC faction had denied responsibility, reflecting
divisions in the separatist movement that both weaken it and
complicate the task of finding a solution in the region, where
unrest has simmered for a generation.

An organization that reunites former FLEC members who started a
peace process with the Angolan government in 2006 said that the
attack had likely been carried out by dissident FLEC members.

"This attack has been committed by armed gangsters who just
want to sabotage the peace process," said Andre Puango,
coordinator of the Cabinda forum for dialogue.

Togo was to have played its opening game against Ghana on Monday
in the African Cup of Nations tournament. But Togo's players
reluctantly left Angola late Sunday. They had said they wanted to
compete to honor the dead, but their government dispatched the
presidential plane after saying it was not safe to stay.

The Togolese team was driving to Angola to take part in the
tournament when gunmen opened fire on the bus Friday. Togo's
assistant coach and team spokesman were killed, as was the Angolan
bus driver.

Eight people were wounded, including a goalkeeper who was flown
to South Africa for treatment. Doctors said Monday it was too soon
to say whether Kodjovi "Dodji" Obilale will recover enough to
play again, but they are optimistic. He was listed in good
condition Monday, an improvement from serious a day earlier.

Meanwhile, three days of mourning were declared in Togo, where
sobbing relatives met a plane late Sunday carrying the victims of
the attack. Weeping women threw themselves to the ground and had to
be helped up.

"Our boys went to Angola to celebrate the best in African
football (soccer) but they came back with dead bodies and bullet
wounds," said Togbe Aklassou, a traditional ruler from the Be area
of Lome.

Togo's players had wanted to compete to honor the dead, but
their government dispatched the presidential plane after saying it
was not safe for them to stay.

"Despite the terrorist attack, Cabinda will remain a hosting
city," Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos said in a speech
at the opening ceremony before the Mali-Angola match. "There is no
need to be afraid."

Mingas, who calls himself FLEC's leader, said Monday his group
was behind the attack. But it was unclear what authority he wielded
from exile.

A leader of a competing FLEC faction, Nzita Tiago, also claimed
responsibility, speaking to the AP by phone from Paris. However,
Portugal's national news agency quoted the secretary-general of
Tiago's faction, Joel Batila, as saying it had nothing to do with
the attack and blamed it on dissidents. Tiago said: "Batila may
not be fully informed."

Another FLEC faction leader, Tiburcio Tati Tchingobo, has denied
responsibility, telling the AP the attacks resulted from
frustration and perhaps lack of discipline among separatist forces.

Alex Vines, head of the Africa program at London's Chatham House
think tank, said Cabinda's factions have been breaking into smaller
and smaller cells in recent years. None has more than a few hundred
fighters and their tactics are "hit-and-run, opportunistic
attacks."

"It's very difficult to see what's going on," he said. "How
(these groups) fit together is not clear at this time."

As weak as Cabinda's armed groups are, periodic announcements
from the Angolan government that the uprising has been quelled -
either by force or negotiations - have been followed by new
outbreaks of violence.

In 2006, one FLEC faction signed a peace deal with Angola's
government. That faction's leader, Bento Bembe, is now a Cabinet
minister charged with overseeing human rights issues.

The Angolan government has denied charges from international
human rights groups that its military has committed atrocities in
Cabinda.

Angola has been struggling to climb back from decades of
violence, and its government was banking on the tournament as a
chance to show the world it was on the way to recovery.

Cabinda's unrest is unrelated to - and often overshadowed by - a
broader civil war that lasted nearly three decades and ended in
2002.


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