CABINDA: Togo s government insisted Sunday that the national football team return from the African Nations Cup in Angola after a deadly attack on their convoy, even after the squad said they wanted to play.
Separatist guerrillas who claimed a deadly shooting on Togo s football team threatened new attacks in Angola, warning on Sunday that weapons will talk in restive Cabinda province.
The Forces for the Liberation of the State of Cabinda-Military Position (FLEC-PM) said attacks would continue because African football boss Issa Hayatou had refused to move games scheduled in Cabinda.
This is going to continue, because the nation is at war, because Hayatou persists, the group s secretary general, Rodrigues Mingas, told AFP by telephone from France where he is in exile.
Weapons will continue to talk, he said
Hours before the opening match in Luanda, Togo players said they wanted to honor those killed in Friday s separatist attack by sticking with the tournament even though one teammate lay in a Johannesburg hospital with bullet wounds.
But Togo government spokesman Pascal Bodjona told AFP in Lome that the team must return home.
People are dead. The goalkeeper (Kodjovi) Obilale is in intensive care, he said.
The best thing to do is not to stay, he said. The government is maintaining its decision to call the team back home.
The announcement added to confusion over whether Togo, one of Africa s strongest teams, would compete in the continent s top football event after the attack that killed the assistant coach and squad spokesman and injured nine.
Nations Cup organisers and Angolan Prime Minister Paulo Kassoma had made impassioned pleas for Togo to stay, making repeated assurances to bolster security for the games.
The Cabinda shooting had police on edge in Luanda where a burst of gunfire was heard near the centre of the capital early Sunday.
Witness Rafael Antas said: They (the police) fired shots into the ground after a driver refused to stop for them.
The last time I heard gunshots in Luanda was at the end of the (civil) war in 2002, said another witness, Antonia Godinha. The police are panicking after what happened up in Cabinda, she added.
Togo international Thomas Dossevi, who plays for French side Nantes, told AFP in Cabinda that the players had unanimously decided that they wanted to stay despite the security worries.
We are all heartbroken, it is no longer a party, but we want to show our national colors, our values and that we are men, Dossevi said.
Togo captain Emmanuel Adebayor had earlier been reported by his club Manchester City to be returning to Britain.
Kassoma met with CAF president Issa Hayatou to reassure him about player safety ahead of the opening match in Luanda at 1900 GMT Sunday.
Let us go on together, united in this big event, this major celebration of African youth in this year of glory for African sport, Kassoma said on state radio.
Hooded gunmen opened fire on the Togo team s buses as they crossed into the restive Angolan enclave of Cabinda in an attack claimed by a faction of the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC), a separatist group battling for independence in the oil-rich territory.
It warned the attack was only the start of a series of targeted actions .
Goalkeeper Obilale was in a good condition after undergoing surgery in a Johannesburg hospital for gunshot wounds to the lower back and abdomen, a doctor told reporters.
The operation went well. It was a routine operation… The patient is in good general condition, said surgeon Elias Degiannis.
He had already undergone an operation in Cabinda, the doctor said, adding that it was still too early to assess the full extent of his injuries.
Organizers had earlier insisted the games would proceed as planned, but did not say how they would handle Togo s decision to withdraw its team.
CAF is continuing with its schedule and the sovereign authorities of the country (Angola) are taking the adequate measures surrounding security, said Constant Omari, a member of the organizing committee.
Hosts Angola took on Mali Sunday at Luanda s new 50,000-seat November 11 Stadium in the first game in the 22-day tournament.
Defending champions Egypt meet two-time CAN winners Nigeria in the opener of Group C, which also includes Mozambique and Benin.