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Activists Arrested in Angola After Togo Football Attack

Amnesty International has accused the Angolan government of cracking down on human rights activists following an attack earlier this month against Togo's football team.

On Sunday, Francisco Luemba, a leading human rights activist and former member of a banned human rights organization, was arrested and charged with crimes against the state. In the days leading up to his arrest, two other members of the now defunct organization were also arrested on the same charges.

All three men have been outspoken about the political tensions in Cabinda, a province of Angola where Togo's national soccer team was attacked earlier this month.

Amnesty International researcher for Angola Maluka-Anne Miti says Angola's government must not use the attack on the Togolese as an excuse to violate human rights in Cabinda.

"This attack should not be used as an excuse to crack down on human rights activists or to violate the rights of freedom of expression of human rights activists," she said.

Two Togolese football officials and an Angolan driver were killed on January 8 when gunmen opened fire on the Togolese football team as they traveled by bus through the province of Cabinda.

The Front for the Liberation of the Cabinda Enclave (FLEC) has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Markus Weimer is an Angola expert at the London-based research group Chatham House. He says Angola's government may be trying to demonstrate a quick response to the attack, which took place as the Togo team made its way to the Africa Cup of Nations, which is taking place in Angola.

He says when the soccer tournament has come to an end, he expects Angola to take military steps to oust FLEC from Cabinda.

"I think there will be an attempt to militarily beat the remaining soldiers of FLEC or the various splinter groups," he noted. "I think there will be a much greater military presence with operations in the Province."

But he says eradicating the FLEC from Cabinda will be difficult.

"It is not going to be easy to achieve this militarily as this group seems to be very small, mobile, and very hard to find," he added.

The FLEC has been leading an armed campaign for the secession of Cabinda since Angola's independence in 1975. The group says one major grievance is that Cabindans see little of the money from oil that comes from their land. Cabinda produces more than half of Angola's oil.

Officially only two FLEC insurgents have been arrested following the attack on Togo's soccer team.