Mo Salah and Sadio Mane get armed guard protection at Afcon with even mascot wearing bulletproof vest over attack fears

'WORRIED' football stars are being protected by armed guards at the Africa Cup of Nations.

And even the official mascot – Mola the Lion – is wearing a bulletproof vest.

The tight security measures are due to fears over attacks in Cameroon, where the continental tournament is being staged.

A Premier League source told the Mirror: “The players are worried especially as threats have been made.

"However, they have been ensured everything will be done to protect them with special forces ready to jump into action if there is any real threat or attack.

“A lot of the players come from where there have been security problems, like Nigeria or Ivory Coast, so they are used to it.

"They are proud to play for their countries so wouldn’t let the people down.”

Senior security commander Engamba Ledoux said: “Measures are being put in place to ensure AFCON goes smoothly.”

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Forty Premier League aces – including Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Riyad Mahrez and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – are competing for their respective African nations.

However, they are under strict restrictions which include a curfew while armoured vehicles patrol the streets to keep players and fans safe, as reported by the Mirror.

Guards are also stationed at hotels and training grounds with soldiers in place at stadiums across the country.

The 2010 tournament was overshadowed by the terrorist attack on Togo's team bus in Angola.

Emmanuel Adebayor was on the coach when gunmen opened fire as the bus driver, a journalist and Togo's assistant manager were all killed.

AFCON organisers, understandably, do not want a repeat of that tragedy.

The threat of attack in Cameroon this year is real.

An ongoing civil war between English-speaking rebels and the French-speaking government continues to cause devastation.

In the four years of fighting, more than 3,000 people have been killed and 700,000 people forced to flee.


There have been 80 bomb attacks in the last year – including one in the coastal town of Limbe last week and another that killed a five-year-old girl in her school classroom.

Bombs also exploded near the stadium in Limbe during last year's African Nations Championship.

Islamic State terrorists and allies Boko Haram have control of large areas of northern Cameroon and there are concerns both sides will view AFCON matches as opportunities to strike.

Human rights researcher Rebecca Tinsley added: “It is a horrible situation. The rebels are serious about attacks.”

Brighton's Yves Bissouma and Moussa Djenepo are both representing Mali in Limbe as they face Tunisia, Mauritania and Gambia in Group F.

Non-essential travel to the town is advised against while the UK government warns people not to go to the northern regions.

On the pitch, hosts Cameroon kicked off the tournament with a comeback 2-1 win over Burkina Faso.

Mane held his nerve with a 97th-minute penalty to beat Zimbabwe 1-0 while Thomas Partey's blunder ensured Ghana suffered defeat to Morocco in their Group C opener.

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