Terrorist attack leaves ACN reeling

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The Togo squad returned home on Sunday 10 January 2010 after the country's leading governmental figures overruled the players and ordered them to pull out of the Africa Cup of Nations.

The decision came after two days of debate and discussion over whether the team would participate in the tournament following the Friday 8 January 2010 attack on the team bus in Angola which claimed the lives of three people. The players initially suggested they would withdraw, only to perform a U–turn after deciding they wanted to play on as a mark of respect to those killed. However, Togolese prime minister Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo and president Faure Gnassingbe had the final say – despite some last–ditch talks instigated by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) designed to keep the team in Angola – insisting the squad return home immediately. Houngbo told L'Equipe: "We understand the approach of the players who wanted to express a way to avenge their fallen comrades, but it would be irresponsible on the part of the authorities to let them continue. If a team or a person present themselves under the banner of Togo, it would be a false representation. "Togo captain Emmanuel Adebayor reluctantly accepted the decision to withdraw from the competition after speaking to Gnassingbe on Sunday morning, stating to French radio station RMC: "The head of state has decided we will return. There was a meeting between players yesterday and we said we were still footballers. We all decided to do something good for the country and play to honour those who died. Unfortunately, the head of state and the country's authorities have decided otherwise. We will pack up and go home. "The Togo team had ignored warnings not to arrive in Angola by coach and it is thought that an army escort prevented a massacre. The separatist group The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC), which was reported to have claimed responsibility for the attack, has now denied any involvement. The unnamed coach driver, media officer Stan O'Cloo and assistant coach Amelete Abalo were killed, while several others were injured. The tournament got underway on the evening of Sunday 10 January, with the CAF having confirmed the event would go ahead as planned. Despite last ditch talks between the governments of Angola, Botswana, Namibia and Togo, the chances of Namibia and Botswana replacing Togo at the event appear to have been dashed and it looks likely the group will continue with only three teams. Angolan Minister of youth and sports Goncalves Muandumba said his country would step up security. "We are going to redouble our efforts, " he told BBC Radio. "We are going to further reinforce all the mechanisms and continue to guarantee security and to create all the conditions which guarantee the success and organisation of the African Nations Cup. It was an unfortunate incident and we will find those responsible. "The CAF held an emergency meeting on Friday night and then released a statement, which read: "The Confederation of African Football condemned the attack against the Togolese delegation convoy heading to Cabinda from Congo. The Angolan Football Association president, who is also the director general of the local organising committee, Mr Justino Fernandes, informed the CAF Executive Committee that the incident happened 10 kilometres within the Angolan territory. "The statement added: "The Angolan authority deployed immediately a team down there to assess the exact situation. According to the information provided by the director general, all injured people were taken to a hospital in Cabinda. "About The Sport Briefing This story has been reproduced with the kind permission of The Sport Briefing. The Sport Briefing is published by PA Sport and can be found at: www. thesportbriefing. comThe Sport Briefing is updated as and when news happens, from across the global business of sport. The industry's biggest stories have an accompanying email alert, and The Sport Briefing sends subscribers a daily digest to give them an easy–to–read overview of the day's main events. Contact rory. squires@thesportbriefing. com for more information.

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