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Togo Soccer Team Attacker Sentenced to 24 Years


Pallbearers carry the coffins of Togo national soccer team assistant coach Abalo Amelete (front), and media officer Stanislas Ocloo during a funeral procession in Lome, Togo, 15 Jan 2010

Pallbearers carry the coffins of Togo national soccer team assistant coach Abalo Amelete (front), and media officer Stanislas Ocloo during a funeral procession in Lome, Togo, 15 Jan 2010

A court in Angola has sentenced a man accused in a deadly gun attack on the Togolese football team to 24 years in prison.

Joao Antonio Puati was convicted Wednesday on charges of armed rebellion in connection with the attack against the team's bus.

A second man, Daniel Simba, was acquitted of involvement in the shooting, which killed two team officials and left the Togo goalkeeper seriously injured.

The defendants had pleaded not guilty to the January attack, which took place in Angola's Cabinda region during the 2010 Africa Cup.

A faction of the Cabinda separatist group FLEC (Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda,) claimed responsibility for attacking the Togolese team.

Last week, Angolan authorities released four human rights activists imprisoned after the attack. The four, who include a priest and a lawyer, were convicted in August of crimes against the state after claims they had ties to the group accused of ambushing Togo's players.

The Angolan Supreme Court ruled that the law under which they were convicted was unconstitutional.

Human rights activists denied the men were linked to the attack and claimed their conviction was politically motivated.

FLEC wants to free Cabinda from Angolan rule. The enclave on Africa's west coast is separated from the rest of Angola by a strip of land of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Cabinda produces about 70 percent of Angola's oil.

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