LUANDA, Angola (AP) — Gunmen opened fire Friday on a bus carrying football players from the West African nation of Togo to a tournament in Angola, wounding at least six people including two athletes, a Togolese football official said.
Togolese football federation vice president Gabriel Ameyi said backup goalkeeper Obilale Kossi and central defender Serge Akakpo were among those hurt. The team’s top player, Emmanuel Adebayor, was unharmed, according to his club Manchester City.
“They should not have traveled by road,” Ameyi said in Lome, Togo. “They did not tell CAF that they were traveling by road. They should have flown to Angola.”
The 16-team African championship starts Sunday in Angola, with Togo due to play its opening match on Monday against Ghana in Cabinda. The team had just crossed the border into Angola when the bus came under fire.
“We were machine-gunned like dogs,” Togo player Thomas Dossevi, who plays for French club Nantes, told Radio Monte Carlo. “They were armed to the teeth … We spent 20 minutes underneath the seats of the bus.”
Dossevi said the players were inclined to pull out of the tournament.
“We don’t want to play this African Cup of Nations,” he told Infosport. “We’re thinking about our teammates — to be hit by bullets when you’ve come to play football is disgusting.”
The injured Togolese were taken to a hospital in Cabinda, Angola’s main oil-producing region that has been plagued by unrest. Human rights groups have accused the military of atrocities and claim government officials have embezzled millions of dollars in oil revenue. The government has denied the charges.
Angola has been struggling to climb back from decades of violence, and its government was clearly banking on the tournament as a chance to show the world it was on the way to recovery. A building boom fueled by oil wealth has included new stadiums in Cabinda and three other cities for the tournament.
An anti-colonial war had begun in the 1960s, and a civil war broke out after independence. The fighting ended in 2002.
Associated Press Writer Ebow Godwin in Lome, Togo, contributed to this report.