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Angola Arrests 2 Suspects in Connection with Togo Team Attack

  • Scott Bobb

Angolan authorities say security forces have arrested two individuals allegedly involved in the deadly attack on Togo's national football team on the eve of the Africa Cup of Nations. Despite the Togolese team's subsequent withdrawal, the tournament opened Sunday night in Luanda with a 4-4 tie between Angola and Mali.

The arrests came amid an intense hunt for the estimated one dozen gunmen who attacked Togo's national football team Friday as it traveled by bus from its training camp in Congo Republic to the Angolan enclave of Cabinda.

The team's assistant coach and its spokesman, Amalete Abalo and Stanislas Ocloo, were killed in the attack as well as their Angolan bus driver. At least seven others were wounded including the Togolese back-up goalkeeper who underwent surgery Saturday in South Africa.

The Togolese government ordered its team to withdraw from the tournament in order to observe three days of mourning but said it might ask to re-join the competition at a later date.

Angola's President Jose Eduardo dos Santos deplored the attack as he opened the tournament Sunday night in a glittering ceremony of music and dance.

He says we condemn this shameful act but the competition in Cabinda will go ahead in homage to these lamented figures of African and international sport.

A minute of silence was observed in honor of the victims.

The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda, which has been fighting a 30-year war for independence in the territory, claimed responsibility. Cabinda is separated from Angola by the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A FLEC commander said the Togolese team was not targeted in the attack but was a casualty of the war. And he warned that if the Angolan government rejected the group's offer of dialogue the violence would continue.

The wounded Togolese goalkeeper, Kodjovi Obilale, was evacuated to South Africa and underwent surgery in a Johannesburg hospital. One of his physicians, Kenneth Boffard, said afterwards that his prospects for recovery were good.

"I think there's every chance [of recovery], not this season perhaps, but he's young. He's fit. He's got a lot going for him. We are optimistic," Boffard said.

In Sunday's opening match, Angola took a commanding lead of four goals to nil by the second half. But Mali stunned the hosts by scoring four goals in the final 16 minutes of play, scoring the equalizer with less than 20 seconds to go in injury time.

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