Gunman jailed for bloody attack on Togo team bus

Share this article

A man has been jailed for 24 years for a deadly attack on a bus carrying Togo's football team during the Africa Cup of Nations.

Joao Antonio Puati opened fire on the bus in January, leaving two members of the Togolese delegation dead and the team's goalkeeper injured.

Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor was among those who survived the shooting.

The vehicle was attacked in the Angolan province of Cabinda and a faction of the Front for the Liberation of the State of Cabinda (Flec) said it carried out the shooting.

Puati had pleaded not guilty at the opening of his trial and denied having links to a separatist group. Another man, Daniel Simbai, was acquitted of the same charges.

Human rights monitors have claimed the men were tortured and forced to sign confessions linking them to the incident, which almost forced the cancellation of the continent's premier football competition.

Antonio Nito, attorney general for the disputed oil-rich northern province of Cabinda, said: "Joao Antonio Puati was at the scene and his link with Flec was established during the trial.

"The judge was convinced that Puati took part in the attack."

However, Lisa Rimli, a Human Rights Watch researcher for Angola, who visited the men in prison, said the conviction was unsafe.

"We are concerned that no credible investigation was conducted to link them to the attack," she said. "I have a feeling that the authorities were desperate to conclude this trial and find someone guilty."

Yesterday's ruling followed a judgement one week ago that freed four human rights activists jailed almost 12 months ago for crimes against state security over alleged links to Flec.

The militant group has been fighting for Cabinda's independence for more than three decades.

Despite a peace deal in 2006, Flec factions continue to wage low-level attacks in the province, which produces 60 per cent of Angola's oil and is separated from the rest of the country by a strip of territory belonging to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.