Emanuel Adebayor on Togo football team bus ambushed by Angolagunmen;Gunmen spray automatic fire at bus carrying players to African Cup of Nations tournament; 1 killed, 9 injured including 2 players and trainer injured in armed attack; Emmanuel Adebayor escapes unhurt
African football was in shock tonight after gunmen attacked Togo‘s national squad, including Premier League striker Emmanuel Adebayor, six months before the continent hosts its first World Cup.
The Togolese football team told tonight how they crouched under their bus seats for 20 minutes as they were “machine-gunned like dogs” by an armed gang in Angola.
The attackers reportedly killed the driver and wounded four others, as well as dealing a big blow to Angola as it prepares to host its first African Nations Cup.
Adebayor, one of Manchester City’s star players and a member of the Togo squad, was on the bus but unhurt in the attack. The tournament, due to begin Sunday is Africa’s last big sporting showcase before 32 teams, including England, arrive in South Africa for the World Cup in June.
Thomas Dossevi, a Togo striker who plays for French club Nantes, told French radio station RMC: “I’m OK but several players are in a bad state. We are still at hospital. They were armed to the teeth … We were machine-gunned like dogs and had to remain hidden under our seats for around 20 minutes to avoid the bullets.”
In a separate interview, Dossevi 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.”
The team was travelling by road from a training camp in Congo-Brazzaville. They had just crossed into Angola’s restive oil-rich Cabinda region when the ambush happened.
“The Angolan driver was killed on the spot,” said a Togolese sports ministry spokesman, adding that the wounded included two squad members and two medics. Other reports from French radio suggested that three players were among the injured: Serge Gakpe, who plays for Monaco, Serge Akakpo of Romanian club Vaslui and Kodjovi Obilale of French team Pontivy.
Manchester City said it had spoken to Adebayor, who was “shaken but unharmed”. Midfielder Richmond Forson said 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.
Midfielder Alaixys Romao admitted the players feared the worst and said Togo was likely to pull out of the tournament.
“We’re not thinking yet of what could happen,” he said. “But it’s true that no one wants to play. We’re not capable of it.
“We’re thinking first of all about the health of our injured because there was a lot of blood on the ground. For the moment there is not much news because they have been taken to different hospitals.
“In cases like these we’re thinking of those near us, of those we love because that really could have been the end of us.”
He added: “We’re all still in shock. As far as I know, seven people were hit by bursts of machine gun fire… the driver, our doctor, a member of the delegation, the assistant coach, the goalkeeping coach and two players.”
Angola has spent $1bn on stadiums, hotels and other infrastructure for the tournament, seen as a hugely symbolic step for a country where civil war raged for 27 years and claimed up to 1 million lives while displacing 4 million people.
Its economy has boomed in recent years but sceptics have questioned whether its transport and hotel infrastructure is ready to deal with the 16-team tournament.
South Africa has faced its own questions over its readiness to deal with the threat of terrorism during the World Cup.
Rich Mkhondo, spokesman for the local 2010 World Cup organising committee, said: “This is a tragic incident and we hope the law and order services in Angola will deal with it. This year in South Africa our security establishment is ready for any eventuality. We want to host an incident-free World Cup.”
This is an isolated incident and can happen anywhere in the world.”
Human rights groups have accused the Angolan military of atrocities in Cabinda and claim government officials have embezzled millions of dollars in oil revenue. The government has denied the charges.
There were claims that Togo had failed to inform tournament officials that they were planning to travel by land rather than flying to the capital, Luanda, as other squads have done.
“They should not have travelled by road,” Togolese football federation vice-president Gabriel Ameyi said. “They did not tell CAF [Confederation of African Football] that they were travelling by road. They should have flown to Angola.”
Togo are due to play Ghana, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast in their group matches. They are due to play Ghana on Monday.
Claude Leroy, a former Cameroon and Ghana coach, said African footballing authorities now had to decide whether the tournament should go ahead.
“You have to ask the question. Football’s just a game,” Leroy told RMC radio. “This is really serious and means that safety cannot be guaranteed. These local hotspots can be really dangerous. The CAF is going to have to take a decision on this crazy shooting.”