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Togo PM Recalls Team from African Cup


Togo's prime minister says its national football (soccer) team must return home immediately and not compete in the African Cup of Nations tournament in Angola set to begin Sunday.

Gilbert Houngbo made the announcement Sunday in Lome, two days after a deadly ambush on the team's bus in the Angolan enclave of Cabinda. The prime minister said if a team presents itself "under the Togolese flag," it will be a "false representation."

The Togo team said Saturday it planned to stay and play in the tournament, even though Togo's government had said it was recalling the squad.

Team members have not issued a statement since the prime minister's Sunday announcement.

Togo midfielder Alaixys Romao said Saturday the team is "determined" to participate in the competition. He said the team cannot let the victims down "and leave like cowards."

The Togolese team bus was attacked Friday as it crossed from the Democratic Republic of Congo into Angola's Cabinda region.

Gunmen killed the bus driver, Togo's assistant coach Abalo Amnalete and its spokesman Stanislas Ocloo. At least seven others were wounded.

Among them is goalie Kodjovi Obilale, who was evacuated to South Africa where he is recuperating from surgery.

A separatist group, the Front of the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda, that has long operated in the oil-rich Cabinda province has claimed responsibility for the attack on Togo's bus. The rebels said Sunday the attacks will continue.

The insurgents' commander, Joao Batists, told VOA the gunmen were not trying to target the Togolese team specifically, but rather Angolan security forces.

Despite the violence, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) says the tournament will open as scheduled in Cabinda.

Togo is scheduled to play Monday.

Angolan government and tournament officials held crisis talks Saturday on the security situation.

Angola's Prime Minister, Paulo Kassoma, called the attack an "isolated act" and said the safety of the tournament's teams are guaranteed.

FIFA, football's international governing body, offered its utmost sympathy to the Togolese team. It said it expected a full report from the organizers, the Confederation of African Football.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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