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Jan 8, 2010

Players injured, driver dead after Togo bus attack

The Togo national team bus has been machine-gunned by Angolan rebels on the Congolese border ahead of the African Nations Cup.

Carter: Attack did irreparable damage
Paper round: Big shadow over ANC

Two players are reported to be injured and a Togolese sports ministry spokesman in Lome said that the bus driver had been killed in the attack. The Sparrow Hawks are in the country ahead of the African tournament, which gets under way on Sunday.

"The Angolan driver was killed on the spot," the Togolese official told Reuters.

"I am fine but several players are in a bad way," FC Nantes striker Thomas Dossevi told Radio Monte Carlo."We are still at hospital. We were attacked like dogs and had to hide for 20 minutes under the seats to avoid the bullets. We were shot, although we had two police coaches on our sides. There are two injured players and also some staff."

Giving more details on the attack, he said: ''We had just crossed the border five minutes before, we were surrounded by police buses, one in front of us another behind. Everything was fine and then there was a powerful burst of gunfire.

''Everyone threw themselves under the seats and tried to protect themselves but some couldn't escape the bullets. It lasted a good 15 minutes, the police fired back but really, it was hard to handle and it still is now. I'm shocked. When we got off the bus we were asking ourselves why us and not others? We were asking ourselves what had happened, we were crying and thanking God.''

According to RMC, the attack happened around 3.15pm just after players entered Cabinda, one of the four host venues of the African Cup of Nations and an oil producing region that has been the target of attacks in the past by a separatist group called FLEC.

The Angolan minister in charge of affairs in Cabinda, Antonio Bento Bembe, called the attack an act of terrorism. However, he denied the attack on the squad had been done by FLEC rebels.

"FLEC no long exists, the attack comes from certain individuals who want to cause problems for us," he said.

But FLEC later claimed responsibility for the attack.

FIFA released a statement speaking of their concern about the attack.

"FIFA and its President, Joseph S. Blatter, are deeply moved by today's incidents which affected Togo's national team, to whom they express their utmost sympathy,'' said the statement.

"FIFA is in touch with the African Football Confederation (CAF) and its President, Issa Hayatou, from which it expects a full report on the situation.''

The two players injured are reported to be GSI Pontivy goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilalé and Vaslui FC defender Serge Akakpo. Others reported injured are an assistant coach, a doctor and a journalist who was following the team.

Romanian side Vaslui confirmed Akakpo was shot and badly injured in the attack, although said the 22-year-old was out of danger after being treated by doctors.

A statement on the club's website read: ''Badly injured in an ambush in Angola, Serge Akakpo is now out of danger. Akakpo was struck by two bullets in the attack and has lost much blood. His condition was stabilised by doctors. FC Vaslui have been in touch with relatives of the player, who confirmed he has undergone surgery, which went very well.''

Alaixis Romao, the Grenoble player, told RMC he could count seven people injured and admitted Togo are now likely to pull out of the tournament. "We are not thinking about possible actions yet, but it's true no one wants to play," he said. "We are not capable. Before everything we have to think of the health of our injured. There was a lot of blood on the floor. We haven't had a lot of updates about their health since they were dispatched to local hospitals. In this case, we think of families, of the people we love because we really could have died there."

Midfielder Richmond Forson believes the number of injuries could have been much worse had the gunmen not originally fired on the wrong bus.

''It was the bus carrying our baggage which was in front of us which they fired on the most,'' he told Canal Plus. ''They thought we were in the bus in front.

''Fortunately for us. That's what saved us. Then they fired on our driver and those who were in front. The windscreen was shattered by the first bullets. It's disgusting to take bullets for a football match.''

Emmanuel Adebayor was unhurt in the attack, Manchester City have confirmed. A statement posted on City's official website read: ''Manchester City can confirm that striker Emmanuel Adebayor is uninjured after this afternoon's attack on the Togo team bus in Angola. Club officials have spoken with Adebayor and though shaken by the terrible events, he is unharmed.

"The club would like to send its condolences to the family of the driver and sends best wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured. We are currently in talks with the Football Association over what may happen next.''

A spokesman for Portsmouth, who have four players away on African Nations Cup duty, said: "We will be asking the FA to talk to FIFA to ensure the players' safety. That is paramount, and if the players' safety can't be ensured, then the players should be sent home.''

Aston Villa also confirmed that their 26-year-old midfielder Moustapha Salifou was ''shaken but okay'' following the attack.

Villa boss Martin O'Neill told his club's official website: "I am really shocked to hear about this. Obviously I am pleased and relieved to hear that Moustapha is okay and that he is not among the injured people.

"The club have been in contact with him and he has reassured us that he is okay but he is extremely shocked and upset, which he would be in these circumstances.''

The Football Association issued a statement on the situation in Angola which read: "Following the terrible attack on the Togo national team in Angola, the Football Association is in contact with various English clubs who have players involved in the African Nations Cup.

"We will continue to ensure we are kept up to speed with all developments and do all we can to assist our clubs and those players involved.

"The FA is currently contacting various organisations, including FIFA.''

Chelsea, who have Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel away on Nations Cup duty, released a statement which read: "We are sure that the national teams and federations along with the authorities are taking every necessary security precaution to ensure the safety of the players and staff.''

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