CABINDA, Angola (AP) — Togo’s national soccer team pulled out of the African Cup of Nations Saturday after three people were killed when the team bus came under fire as it traveled through a section of Angola plagued by separatist violence.
Manchester City, the team of top player Emmanuel Adebayor who is also captain of the Togo team, said that the team was withdrawing from the continent-wide tournament.
A goalie for Togo’s national soccer team said on French radio that the death toll from a shooting attack on the team’s bus in Angola has risen to three.
Goalie Kossi Agassa — who plays for French club Istres — told France-Info radio by phone that a Togo assistant coach and a spokesperson have also died. Agassa said that a second team goalie was badly wounded and transported urgently to South Africa for treatment.
Dr. Fraser Lamond of medical assistance provider International SOS told The Associated Press on Saturday that it had been asked to provide two air ambulances.
But before they landed in Cabinda on Saturday morning, one of the patients died. Lamond said that another man was due to arrive at Johannesburg’s Milpark hospital on Saturday afternoon.
Lamond said that his “condition is serious but stable and he will be going to a trauma facility.” Lamond didn’t know if the man was a player.
Angola’s Information Minister Manuel Rabelais said Friday that eight team members and one Angolan were injured. In Togo, the government said the Angolan driver was killed.
Togo’s bus in a convoy from Congo was six miles across the border in Angola when it came under fire. The bus driver died in the 30-minute ambush, according to Togo captain Emmanuel Adebayor, who was not hurt.
Togo player Thomas Dossevi, who plays for French club Nantes, told The Associated Press Saturday that the team wants to pull out of the tournament.
“The situation is really compromised. We are expecting news about the injured people and we are hoping to get away from Cabinda today,” he said.
The African Football Confederation (CAF) condemned the attack against the Togolese delegation and held an emergency meeting. A delegation of Angolan officials and a CAF delegation are headed to Cabinda, while the Angolan Prime Minister will meet CAF president Issa Hayatou “to take decisions to guarantee the smooth running of the competition.”
FIFA also expressed “utmost sympathy” in a statement and said it expected a report from CAF.
“Despite this, the championship will go on,” Angola’s Sports Minister Goncalves Muandumba said.
Ivory Coast general manager Kaba Kone told The Associated Press on Saturday that his team was “shocked and are living through very hard times” but never considered pulling out of the tournament.
He said the Ivorian players visited their Togolese counterparts late Friday to express their sympathy.
There were no visible security forces guarding the Ivory Coast team’s hotel in Cabinda on Saturday, but Kone said CAF and tournament organizers are stepping up their measures to guarantee safety.
“This event can still be a big party,” he said.
The wounded were taken to a hospital in Cabinda, and Portugal’s state-run Lusa news agency said it received a communication from the region’s main separatist group, FLEC, claiming to have carried out the attack.
Rabelais said Angola’s government was now blaming the separatist group for the attack. He said the attackers came from the Republic of Congo into Angola, and fled back after the attack.
Togo Football Federation vice president Gabriel Ameyi said the team should have flown to Angola instead of traveling by road.
He said defender Serge Akakpo and backup goalkeeper Obilale Kossi were among those hurt.
Midfielder Alaixys Romao felt Togo should not go ahead with the tournament.
AP writers Rob Harris in London and Jamey Keaten in Paris contributed to this report.