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Premier League stars playing in the Africa Cup of Nations will be protected by security so tight that even the official mascot has a ­bullet proof vest.

It’s not only Mola the Lion who is closely shielded. England-based strikers such as Liverpool’s Mo Salah and Sadio Mane and Man City’s Riyad Mahrez are getting armed guards for the tournament in Cameroon.

Forty Prem stars are in the 24 teams ­taking part in the four-week competition, which kicks off on Sunday.

Curfews have been imposed and ­armoured vehicles will be patrolling the streets to keep fans and players safe.

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The footballers will be guarded at their hotels and training bases as well as by regulars soldiers at the stadiums.

There have been 80 bomb attacks in the past year in Cameroon and a five-year-old girl was killed when one was thrown into her classroom.

A civil war where English-speaking rebels have been fighting the French-speaking government has raged for four years, killing 3,500 people and forcing nearly one million people to flee.

Islamic State terrorists control large stretches of territory in the far north. The rebels and IS have both threatened bomb attacks and kidnappings during AFCON, Africa’s version of the Euros.

Organisers are desperate to avoid a ­repeat of the machine gun ambush on the Togo bus carrying Man City striker Emmanuel Adebayor in Angola at the 2010 tournament that left two dead.

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Mane and Chelsea ’s keeper Edouard Mendy play for Senegal. Salah, Aston Villa’s Trézéguet and Arsenal ’s Mohamed Elneny are Egypt stars; and Mahrez and West Ham ’s Said Benrahma are teammates for current champions Algeria.



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