A group of hackers claim to have shut down the website of the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament in protest at organisers holding it in the “dictatorship” of Gabon.
The New World Hackers group, said to be based in Russia, said they have “taken down” the official website of top African soccer body the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
Officials could not immediately confirm if their website had been hacked. CAF spokesman Junior Binyam said he could not say if there were unconnected technical problems with the website, or if it had been hacked.
The purported hackers said they attacked the website because the central African nation of Gabon was a “dictatorship” under president Ali Bongo Ondimba, who retained power in disputed and violent elections last year.
“We did this in protest against Gabon,” one person claiming to be one of the hackers wrote in an email.
“They are running the Africa Cup in a country where the dictator Ali Bongo is killing innocent people!”
The email said three hackers who live in Russia and go by the names Kapustkiy, Cyric and Maxie were responsible for taking the website out of action.
Mr Bongo, who took over from his father as president of oil-rich Gabon in 2009, won re-election by a razor-thin margin in a vote last August. Opposition leader Jean Ping denounced the elections as fraudulent, and clashes and deaths on the streets followed.
The build-up to the Africa Cup of Nations was undermined by fears that political protests would break out again during the tournament, but the first week of the cup has passed peacefully, although there have been reports that a small number of people were arrested for protesting against Mr Bongo.
The president was at the national stadium in the capital Libreville on Saturday to visit the Gabonese team, which plays a crucial match against Cameroon on Sunday.
Gabon is hosting the African soccer championship for the second time in five years, having co-hosted with neighbouring Equatorial Guinea in 2012. It was chosen in April 2015 as a replacement for war-torn Libya.
New World Hackers have claimed responsibility for previous hacks, including one in the United States last year that affected access to Twitter, Netflix and PayPal.