January 12, 2010

Two arrested in Togo attack


Togolese gendarmes carry the coffin of one of the shooting victims

Angolan authorities have arrested two people over a deadly attack on Togo's football team at the Africa Cup of Nations tournament, state media say.

Angola's National Radio reported that two suspects were arrested in the northern province of Cabinda - where Togo's team bus was attacked on Friday.

Cabinda has seen a low-level insurgency for many years.

Two Togolese officials and an Angolan bus driver were killed in Friday's attack and the team has returned home.

The attack has overshadowed the start of the Cup of Nations - a showpiece event for both Angola, recovering from years of war, and African football ahead of the World Cup in June, which the continent is hosting for the first time.

National mourning

The team was attacked by gunmen as its bus made its way from a training camp in the Republic of Congo to the venue in Cabinda City.

A faction of the Cabinda separatist rebel group, Front for the Liberation of the State of Cabinda (Flec), has claimed responsibility for the 30-minute machine-gun attack.

Angolan media quoted officials saying two Flec fighters were arrested near the site of the attack.

After recovering from their initial shock, Togo's footballers had wanted to continue playing in the tournament, but their government ordered their withdrawal.

"Our decision to withdraw the team is really based on the security consideration and what we believe is a mismanagement of what has happened," Prime Minister Gilbert Houngbo told the BBC's World Today programme.

He said his concerns had been "totally disregarded" by officials in Angola and the Confederation of African Football (Caf).

Togo were officially disqualified from the cup when they failed to appear for their scheduled fixture against Ghana on Monday.

Meanwhile, people in Togo are in a state of shock at the attack and still trying to come to terms with what happened in Cabinda, says the BBC's Ebow Godwin in Lome, Togo's capital.

'Set up'

Church services for the two officials killed have been taking place and flags are at half-mast across the country, our correspondent says Questions are being raised about whether Angola should have chosen Cabinda to host any matches.

The province is separated from the rest of Angola by part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The head of Flec-Position Militar (Military Position), the faction which says it carried out the attack, told the BBC it was fighting what he called Angola's illegal occupation of Cabinda.

"The attack was not directed against the Togo bus, it was against Angolan forces.

"It is very sad for us as well because Flec isn't about killing foreigners, but Cabinda is at war despite the lies about this by the Angolan government," Rodriguez Mingas told the BBC's Portuguese service.

Togolese football officials have been criticised for arranging to drive through areas where rebels were known to be active.

Africa Nations Cup official Virgilio Santos said all teams had been told explicitly not to travel to the tournament by road.

Richard Dowden, director of the Royal African Society, told the BBC's Today programme it was "absolutely astounding" that the Togolese football team were allowed to travel to Cabinda overland.

He said officials mount huge security operations when they visit the province - and generally fly there in planes or helicopters.

"Cabinda has got this particular problem with a nationalist movement that has kidnapped foreigners and attacks foreigners whenever it can," he said.

"[The rebels] must have known they were coming - it's absolutely clear that it was set up."

The first tournament fixture to be played in Cabinda passed off peacefully on Monday.

The BBC's Alex Capstick said security was tight, with the opposing teams - Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso - being given police escorts to the ground.

Military helicopters are circling the city carrying heavily armed paramilitary police known as "ninjas", he adds.

Togo's assistant coach and media spokesman were killed in the attack along with the team's bus driver.

Several others were injured, including goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale who was taken to South Africa for treatment.

Doctors said he had bullet fragments in his stomach, but was recovering well.

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