Namibia/Togo: Survivors Remember Togo National Football Team Machine Gun Ambush, 10 Years On

LONDON -- On 8 January 2010, the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola was just days away.

I was in the province of Cabinda, preparing to cover Group B for the BBC World Service, and was also charged with handing over the BBC African Footballer of the Year trophy to the newly crowned winner, Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba.

As the day wore on, unconfirmed reports of a shooting, apparently involving the Togo national team, started coming through. The detail was sketchy, but it was clear that something serious had happened.

Just how serious was spelled out when I encountered the squad, walking back to their hotel in Cabinda city.

Asking to speak to someone, I was immediately told the team spokesman would be their best-known player - then Manchester City star Emmanuel Adebayor.

When he sat down to speak, he gave horrifying details of an attack which left two members of the Togo delegation dead and resulted in life changing injuries to a number of others.

Revisiting that interview, and hearing from other squad members 10 years on, here is the story of an assault which made global headlines, and its aftermath.

The days leading up to the 2010 Nations Cup saw Togo's squad in good spirits. They were back at the tournament after missing out in 2008 and were preparing to take on a group featuring some of the biggest names in African football - Drogba's Ivory Coast and Michael Essien's Ghana were drawn in the same pool.

Togo's pre-tournament camp was set for Pointe Noir in the Republic of Congo, just over 100km from where their group games were to be played, in the Angolan city of Cabinda.

Cabinda is separate from the rest of Angola, and rather than fly over their destination to the capital Luanda and then fly back north again, Togo chose to drive. It was a decision that was to have fatal consequences.

After a relaxing evening the night before - some had even been out on the town, to the annoyance of their coaches - the squad travelled to the border. There was a carefree atmosphere on the bus, with players laughing and joking amongst themselves - a group of talented young men, preparing for one of the high points of their careers.

At the border they were joined by Angolan security forces, who were to escort them through the forest - an area known as a base for groups calling for the region's independence from Angola - to Cabinda city. The squad didn't pay much attention to their arrival. Soon they would be fighting for the lives of everyone on the Togo team bus.

The small convoy moved off from the border, and onto the road through the forest. Looking back 10 years, midfielder Junior Senaya recalls that journey, and the moment everything changed.

"We were all enjoying [ourselves], after we had crossed the border. Some of us were busy listening to music. I remember after 15 minutes of driving we heard a gunshot in the forest - we all laughed, made a joke. Then at the same time it was followed by intense shooting."

The first injuries were inflicted before anyone even had a chance to realise what was going on.

Senaya remembers Togo's media officer, Stanislas Ocloo, was standing to take video footage of their arrival in Angola at the moment of the attack. He was shot and killed.

Another player who remembers all too clearly those frantic moments is goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale. His life was transformed in just a few seconds, as he realised that he too had been hit. - BBC News

See What Everyone is Watching

More From: Namibian

Don't Miss

AllAfrica publishes around 800 reports a day from more than 140 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.