/ Soccer

Togo players injured, driver killed in gun attack

Updated: Saturday, 09 Jan 2010 11:28

Emmanuel Adebayor's team bus has been shot at in Angola ahead of the African Cup of Nations
Emmanuel Adebayor's team bus has been shot at in Angola ahead of the African Cup of Nations

Several members of the Togo soccer team have been injured and the driver of the team bus killed in a machine gun assault at the African Nations Cup in Angola.

The attack happened in Cabinda, a region of Angola separated from Togo by the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Togolese team members said that despite heavy police protection, they were subjected to a sustained assault for over 15 minutes.

No members of the team or coaching staff are believed to have been killed, but the driver of the bus is thought to have died. Up to six team members are also thought to have injuries, some serious.

Romanian side FC Vaslui confirmed their defender Serge Akakpo, who joined the club from French side Auxerre last year, was shot and badly injured in the attack.

The club said, though, the 22-year-old was out of danger after being treated by doctors.

A statement on the club's website read: 'Badly injured in an ambush in Angola, Serge Akakpo is now out of danger.

'Akakpo was struck by two bullets in the attack and has lost much blood. His condition was stabilised by doctors. FC Vaslui have been in touch with relatives of the player, who confirmed he has undergone surgery, which went very well.'

Many of the Togo players are French based but a club spokesman for Manchester City has confirmed that Emmanuel Adebayor was unhurt and Aston Villa later confirmed that their 26-year-old midfielder Moustapha Salifou was 'shaken but okay' following the attack.

Manchester City and Portsmouth have contacted the Football Association, asking them to speak to football's world governing body to ensure players' safety can be guaranteed, and calling for them to be sent home if it cannot.

City released a statement relating to Adebayor, which read: 'Manchester City can confirm that striker Emmanuel Adebayor is uninjured after this afternoon's attack on the Togo team bus in Angola.

Premier League clubs seek assurances

'Club officials have spoken with Adebayor and, though shaken by the terrible events, he is unharmed. The club would like to send its condolences to the family of the driver and sends best wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured. We are currently in talks with the Football Association over what may happen next.'

Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill told his club's official website, www.avfc.co.uk: 'I am really shocked to hear about this. Obviously I am pleased and relieved to hear that Moustapha is okay and that he is not among the injured people.

'The club have been in contact with him and he has reassured us that he is okay but he is extremely shocked and upset, which he would be in these circumstances.'

Togo are due to face Ghana in their first African Nations Cup match on Monday but several team members have said they do not wish to play in the competition any more.

Organisers have insisted the tournament will still go ahead as planned.

The Confederation of African Football and FIFA are yet to confirm the details of the attack or what effect it may have on the format of the tournament, or indeed whether it can go ahead at all.

Cabinda, an oil rich region which has been embroiled in a long-running independence struggle, is scheduled to host seven Nations Cup matches this month.

Several Togolese players gave interviews to French TV and radio after the attack.

Gunmen fired at team's luggage bus

Midfielder Richmond Forson said he believed that 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.’

Thomas Dossevi of French second division side Nantes told Infosport: ‘We had just crossed the border (between Congo and Cabinda, where Togo are to play their Group B matches). We had filled in the border formalities and were surrounded by police.

'Everything was fine. Then there was a powerful burst of gunfire. Everyone dived under the seats and the police fired back. It felt like war had broken out. It's shocking. When we got off the bus we were asking ourselves what was up.

‘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 set to withdraw from competition

Togo midfielder Alaixys Romao, of French club Grenoble, 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. 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.'

An Angolan government minister described the incident as an 'act of terrorism'.

Antonio Bento Bembe a 'minister without portfolio' in Angola who is responsible for Cabinda confirmed that several members of the Togo team had been injured.

He added: 'This was an act of terrorism that is being dealt with as we speak. I can confirm there are injuries but I still don't have all the information.'

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