The Togo national team bus has been machine-gunned by Angolan rebels on the Congolese border ahead of the African Cup of Nations.
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.”
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. Alaixis Romao, the Grenoble player, told RMC he could count seven people injured.
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. Rebels have been fighting for independence in the oil-rich area of the country.
The incident looks set to place in jeopardy the chances of Togo remaining in the country and Romao admits the players feared the worst and thinks Togo are now likely to pull out. “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.”
Aston Villa also confirmed that their 26-year-old midfielder Moustapha Salifou was ”shaken but okay” following the attack.