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Mourning Togo Football Team Denied Access to Tournament

Angolan policemen patrol outside of Chiazi stadium in Cabinda, 11 Jan 2010

Angolan policemen patrol outside of Chiazi stadium in Cabinda, 11 Jan 2010

Officials from the Africa Cup of Nations have denied a request by the Togolese Football team to join the tournament in Angola late following a deadly border ambush last week that left three members of their entourage dead.

After their bus was ambushed and three members of their entourage killed, Togo's national football team will not return to Angola to participate in the Africa Cup of Nations. The West African country's sports minister had requested that the team be allowed to enter the tournament late, following three days of national mourning. The request was denied by Confederation of African Football officials.

The team began three days of official mourning on Monday after arriving back in Lome late Sunday. Team captain Emmanuel Adebayor says it was a solemn homecoming.

Adebayor, who plays for Manchester City in the English Premier League, said it was difficult knowing the team had left with 33 men, but they were returning with just 30.

Before returning to Togo, Adebayor, and some of his teammates had expressed a desire to stay on and play in the Africa Cup of Nations. But government officials in Togo had convinced them to return home.

The team was on its way to the tournament on Friday, when gunmen attacked their bus as it crossed over from the Republic of Congo into the Angolan province of Cabinda.

It was the most difficult moment of his life, added Adebayor of the 30-minute siege. An assistant coach, the team's media spokesman and the bus driver were killed. Eight others were injured.

On Monday Angolan authorities said they had arrested two of the men thought to have taken part in the attack on the Togolese team.

A separatist group known as the Front for the Liberation of Cabinda, has claimed responsibility for the attack. The team was ambushed in the oil-rich northern exclave, which is separated from the rest of Angola.