African Cup Kicks Off in Angola Despite Deadly Attack on Togo's Team
Scott Bobb | Johannesburg 10 January 2010
The African Cup of Nations football tournament kicks off in Luanda Sunday with the opening match between Angola and Mali. The tournament is going ahead despite an attack on the team from Togo that killed three people and wounded at least seven more.
Angolan officials said the African Cup of Nations tournament would go ahead as planned, but the government of Togo announced it was withdrawing its team because of Friday's attack.
Several Togolese players earlier had indicated they were prepared to play in honor of their slain comrades.
The Togolese government spokesman Pascal Bodjona said the national team's players were in a state of shock.
He says the Togolese government has decided to call back its team. He said we cannot take part in the Cup under these tragic circumstances.
He added that the government did not believe its team was given the necessary security guarantees.
The Togolese government has accused the Angolan government of failing to warn it of the lack of security in the region. Angolan officials said the Togolese team violated Africa Confederation of Football regulations that require all teams to travel by air.
The team's assistant coach and its spokesman were killed in the ambush as the team traveled by bus Friday from their training camp in neighboring Congo Republic (Brazzaville) to the Angolan enclave of Cabinda.
The team's back-up goalkeeper was seriously injured in the attack. He underwent surgery Saturday after being evacuated to South Africa.
The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda claimed responsibility. The group has been fighting for independence for the oil-rich enclave for three decades. Cabinda lies between Congo Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa).
FLEC Commander Joao Batista told VOA Portuguese Service the attack was aimed at the Angolan armed forces.
He says it was not a premeditated attack against the Togolese team because we have nothing against Togo. He says the attack was due to the fact there is no peace in the territory and when there is no peace there is no security.
Batista said his group is ready to talk with the Angolan government, but warned if the government rejected negotiations there would be more attacks.
Togo was due to open its group series Monday in Cabinda against Ghana. Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso are also in the group.
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