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Togo leave African Cup

Published:Monday | January 11, 2010 | 12:00 AM

CABINDA, Angola (AP):

Togo withdrew from a continentwide soccer tournament and their players reluctantly left Angola yesterday, two days after a deadly ambush on the team bus killed three and injured eight.

A separatist leader warned, however, that violence would not likely end.

It took a call from Togo's president to persuade the players to leave the African Cup of Nations; they said they wanted to stay and compete in honour of the assistant coach, team spokesman and Angolan bus driver who died in Friday's attack.

The government dispatched the presidential plane, while Togo's Prime Minister Gilbert Houngbo said Angola had not done enough to protect the team after the attack in Cabinda - the oil-rich region in northern Angola which has seen occasional separatist violence.

"We fully understand our government's decision to leave because they didn't receive enough guarantees for our security," forward Thomas Dossevi told The Associated Press. "We as players, we wanted to stay to honour the memory of our dead people, but both positions are understandable."

Togo team captain Emmanuel Adebayor, speaking in an interview with France's RMC radio yesterday, said the team had decided finally to "pack our bags and go home" after the Manchester City striker got a call from Togo President Faure Gnassingbé himself urging them to return.

"That's what made the difference," Adebayor was quoted as saying in a transcript of his interview on RMC's website.

Boarding the plane, Adebayor told journalists: "We have to mourn our dead. We go back home to do this."

Togo Sports Minister Christophe Padumhokou Tchao, who was accompanying the team home, told the AP three days of mourning had been declared in his homeland.

"We can't be in a period of mourning and at the same time be in the festival" of sport, he said.

He added Togo had asked organisers to postpone the tournament.

The airport scene was chaotic, with dozens of police struggling against a crowd of journalists. Two planes carrying the players and officials then sat on the tarmac for several hours before taking off.

The tournament began earlier yesterday with an opening ceremony in a Chinese-built stadium in the capital, Luanda, livened by fireworks as well as both traditional and contemporary performers. Several African heads of state attended, including President Rupiah Banda of Zambia and South Africa's Jacob Zuma, whose country will host the World Cup later this year

"Despite the terrorist attack, Cabinda will remain a hosting city," Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos said in an opening speech. "There is no need to be afraid."

Most top officials of the African Football Confederation, known by its French initials CAF, went Saturday to Cabinda, where some of the injured were still recovering, and implored Togo to stay.

Tighter security

CAF president Issa Hayatou said he'd received a guarantee from Angola Prime Minister Antonio Paulo Kassoma that security would be beefed up for all teams and at all venues.

In a telephone interview with AP yesterday, Tiburcio Tati Tchingobo, minister of defence in the self-declared Federal State of Cabinda, denied his Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda forces, or FLEC, were responsible for the ambush. He said that whoever was responsible was sparked by a level of frustration that could lead to more violence.

"The tournament can go on, but we are worried about security. We don't have any problem with our fellow African brothers," he said, when contacted on a satellite phone number, saying he was in Cabinda.