Two held over attack on Togo football team
Monday 11 January 2010
Two members of a violent separatist movement have been arrested over the Angola machine gun attack on Togo's football team that killed three people.
Prosecutors in troubled Cabinda province where the shooting took place said two members of the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda forces, or FLEC, were captured yesterday.
Meanwhile a FLEC leader in exile in France 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, said.
The West African country's football team was being driven to Angola to take part in the African Cup of Nations tournament when gunmen opened fire on the bus last Friday. Togo's assistant coach and team spokesman were killed, as was the Angolan bus driver.
Eight were wounded, including a goalkeeper flown to South Africa for treatment. Doctors said today it was too soon to say whether Kodjovi "Dodji" Obilale will recover enough to play again, but they are optimistic.
Meanwhile, three days of mourning were declared in Togo, where sobbing relatives met a plane 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 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 honour the dead, but their government dispatched the presidential plane after saying it was not safe for them to stay.
Togo's Prime Minister Gilbert Houngbo said Angola had not done enough to protect the team after the attack in Cabinda, an oil-rich region that has seen occasional separatist violence.
"We fully understand our government's decision to leave because they didn't receive enough guarantees for our security," forward Thomas Dossevi said. "We as players, we wanted to stay to honour the memory of our dead people, but both positions are understandable."
Togo team captain and Manchester City player Emmanuel Adebayor said the team had decided finally to "pack our bags and go home" after he got a call from Togo President Faure Gnassingbe himself urging them to return.
Boarding the plane, Adebayor told journalists: "We have to mourn our dead. We go back home to do this."
"Despite the terrorist attack, Cabinda will remain a hosting city," Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos said.
"There is no need to be afraid."
Cabinda's armed groups have been weakened by the factional fighting. But periodic announcements from the Angolan government that the Cabinda uprising has been quelled - either by force or negotiations - have been followed by new outbreaks of violence.
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.
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