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Togo team bus fired upon by rebels; driver killed, two players, and two team aides shot

By Sulmaan Ahmad and Rami Ayari

According to various reports, the Togolese team bus has been attacked in Cabinda, Angola, after crossing into the country by road from Congo.

The latest news from Angola indicates that the driver of the bus has died from gunshot wounds. Four others have also been shot: two of them are players, reported to be Serge Akakpo and Kodjovi Obilale. A team doctor and another Togolese official of an unknown role were the other two victims.

The rest of the passengers, including the Togolese team, were immediately taken to the nearest hospital for injured players to receive treatment.

Togo had conducted a training camp in DR Congo prior to the African Cup of Nations, which is due to begin this Sunday.


Player reactions

Midfielder Richmond Forson described the attack and said it 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."

"We had just crossed the border five minutes before," he continued. "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."

Togo midfielder Alaixys Romao told The Guardian that Togo's future in the tournament is now far from certain.

He said, "We're not thinking yet of what could happen. 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."

Others were equally distressed. "I’m fine but the players are in bad shape. It’s madness. We’re in the hospital in the north of Cabinda. We were shot at like dogs. They were hooded and armed to the teeth. We spent 20 minutes stuck under the seats of the bus," said Thomas Dossevi while speaking to French radio station RMC.

"There was security but it wasn’t enough."


Attack motivation

An early, unconfirmed statement attributed to the Republic of Cabinda indicates that the attack was aimed at the Angolan government security forces that accompanied the Togo team bus. The Republic further warned that "this is just the first of many actions".

The bus was attacked just over the border from DR Congo into Cabinda, an Angolan exclave. The oil-rich province of Cabinda has recently been embroiled in a long-running independence struggle with Angola. Nonetheless, seven African Cup of Nations matches are scheduled to take place in Cabinda's main city.