JOHANNESBURG // Two Togolese football officials died yesterday of injuries they sustained in Friday's gun attack on their convoy by separatists in the Angolan exclave of Cabinda, where they had been due to take part in the African Cup of Nations.
An assistant coach, Amalete Abalo, and the team's press officer, Stanislas Ocloo, along with their Angolan bus driver, were killed in the 30-minute ambush, for which the Front for the Liberation of the State of Cabinda - Military Position (FLEC-PM) was reported to be responsible. Togo withdrew from the tournament yesterday. "The Togolese government has decided to call back the team. We could not continue the African Nations Cup in this dramatic situation," Pascal Bodjona, the country's territorial administration minister, said in a statement released in the capital, Lome. The team's forward Thomas Dossevi told the Associated Press that team representatives met with African Football Confederation (CAF) officials yesterday to discuss postponing the tournament, but that no such decision was made.
"We are disappointed by the CAF position, which is that the show must go on whatever happened," Dossevi said. The English Premier League club Manchester City said its forward Emmanuel Adebayor, a member of Togo's team, had left Angola. Earlier in the day he had chaired a meeting with players over whether to remain. At least two players were injured, but reports conflicted over the number of victims, with some saying as many as nine people were hurt. The reserve goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale Dodo was flown to South Africa for surgery as he had been shot in the stomach.
The attack - condemned by the government in Luanda as "terrorism" - cast a pall over the tournament, which analysts had described as being Angola's "coming-out party" after three decades of civil war were followed by an oil boom in recent years. Danny Jordaan, the chief executive of the organising committee for the World Cup finals to be held in South Africa this year, said he felt sorry for Angola.
"This was going to be the event that would mark their transition from decades of war to a new social and economic order. In that context, it's a blow," he said. But it would not have an impact on the World Cup, he added. "We are all a little shocked and we're asking why [the tournament organisers] were holding games in Cabinda," Dossevi, the Togo player, said. "How can you organise a tournament in a state of war?"
Cabinda is home to more than half the oil reserves that have fuelled Angola's booming economy, but has for decades also been the scene of a separatist insurgency for an independent state. In recent years the authorities have succeeded in reducing it to a low-level insurgency, but the attack demonstrates that the rebels still maintain a dangerous presence. The Angolan prime minister, Paulo Kassoma, said in at statement that the attack was an isolated act and that the teams' security was guaranteed.
Togo had been due to play Ghana in their opening match in Cabinda tomorrow. The Togo coach Hubert Velud, who had urged the cancellation of the tournament, told French radio station RMC:"It's an act of barbarism while we are here to celebrate African football." Velud added: "In these situations you become a bit paranoid, you doubt everything. We don't feel that the authorities are taking this very seriously."
Togolese midfielder Moustapha Salifou, who plays for the English side Aston Villa, said he felt lucky to be alive. He told Villa's website: "Our security people saved us. They were in two cars, about 10 of them in total, and they returned fire," he said. "The shooting lasted for half an hour and I could hear the bullets whistling past me. "It was like a movie. It was only 15 minutes after we crossed the border into Angola that we came under heavy fire.
"The driver was shot almost immediately and died instantly so we were just stopped on the road with nowhere to go. I know I am really lucky. "I was in the back of the coach with Adebayor and one of the goalkeepers. A defender who was sat in front of me took two shots in the back." firstname.lastname@example.org