By JEAN-YVES KAMALE and NICOLE WINFIELD, Related Press
KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — The Italian ambassador to Congo, an Italian Carabinieri police officer and their Congolese driver have been killed Monday when gunmen attacked a U.N. convoy touring to a faculty in japanese Congo, the Italian International Ministry and residents stated.
Luca Attanasio, serving on the Italian embassy within the nation since 2017, Carabinieri officer Vittorio Iacovacci and their driver Moustapha Milambo have been killed, officers stated. Different members of the convoy have been wounded and brought to a hospital, the World Meals Program stated.
Congo’s inside ministry stated 4 others within the convoy have been kidnapped, however one individual has since been discovered by Congo’s military.
The ambush occurred because the convoy was touring from Goma, Congo’s japanese regional capital, to go to a WFP college mission in Rutshuru, the U.N. company stated.
The WFP stated the assault occurred on a highway that had been cleared beforehand for journey with out safety escorts, and it was searching for extra data from native officers on the assault. Jap Congo is dwelling to myriad insurgent teams all vying for management of the mineral-rich Central African nation that’s the dimension of Western Europe.
The assault, about 25 kilometers north of Goma, was proper subsequent to Virunga Nationwide Park. North Kivu Gov. Carly Nzanzu Kasivita stated the U.N. autos have been hijacked by the attackers and brought into the bush. The Congolese military and park guards for Virunga Nationwide Park got here to assist those that had been attacked, he stated.
“There was an trade of fireside. The attackers fired on the bodyguard and the ambassador,” the governor stated.
Attanasio was shot within the stomach, in line with an announcement by Congo’s Inside Ministry. He was then transported to the U.N. Mission in Congo hospital the place he died from his wounds, the ministry stated.
With out citing sources, Italian state TV on Monday evening stated the convoy apparently was the goal of a kidnapping try with the purpose of securing ransom cash.
Attanasio, a 43-year-old profession diplomat, left behind a spouse and three younger kids.
The assault occurred in the identical space the place two Britons have been kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in 2018, stated Mambo Kaway, head of an area civil society group.
“The scenario may be very tense,” he added.
There was no rapid declare of duty for the assault.
Congo’s Inside Ministry has blamed the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, the Rwandan Hutu insurgent group referred to as FDLR, for the assault.
The inside ministry stated the provincial authorities of North Kivu weren’t conscious of the presence of the Italian ambassador, which didn’t enable them to supply him with safety measures.
Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi gave his honest condolences to the households of the victims and has known as for an investigation in order that the perpetrators might be dropped at justice, in line with the president’s workplace.
Greater than 2,000 civilians have been killed final yr in japanese Congo in violence by armed teams whose brutal assaults have additionally displaced over 5.2 million folks in what the U.N. calls one of many world’s worst humanitarian crises.
Marie Tumba Nzenza, Congo’s minister of overseas affairs, despatched her condolences and promised the Italian authorities that the Congolese authorities would do all it might to seek out these behind the killings.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Premier Mario Draghi additionally expressed their condolences to the victims’ households. Flags at Italian authorities buildings have been ordered to fly at half-staff Monday and Tuesday.
“The circumstances of this brutal assault are nonetheless unclear and no effort shall be spared to make clear what occurred,” International Minister Luigi Di Maio stated.
Di Maio hurried again from a European Union ministerial assembly in Brussels to Rome to debate the assault with Draghi.
The Rome prosecutors’ workplace investigates crimes overseas towards Italians. A specialised Carabinieri unit was anticipated to reach on Tuesday in Kinshasha to assist in the Italian investigation.
After diplomatic posts in Switzerland, Morocco and Nigeria, Attanasio was assigned to the Embassy in Kinshasa in September 2017.
Final October, he was awarded the Nassiriya Worldwide Prize for Peace in a ceremony held in a church in southern Italy. Attanasio was cited for “having contributed to the conclusion of necessary humanitarian tasks, distinguishing himself for altruism, dedication and the spirit of service for folks in issue,” the La Repubblica newspaper reported.
It quoted Attanasio as saying that “all that which we take as a right in Italy isn’t in Congo, the place, sadly, there are such a lot of issues to resolve.”
Attanasio described the position of the ambassador is “above all to be near the Italians, but additionally to contribute to attaining peace.” Round 1,000 Italians reside in Congo.
Congo suffered via one of many world’s most brutal colonial reigns earlier than present process a long time of corrupt dictatorship. Again-to-back civil wars later drew in quite a lot of neighboring nations. In January 2019, Congo skilled its first peaceable democratic switch of energy since independence in 1960 following the election of President Felix Tshisekedi.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission has been working towards drawing down its greater than 17,000-troop presence within the nation and switch its safety work to Congolese authorities.
“These tragic killings spotlight the insecurity in japanese Congo,” in an space that has seen an increase in kidnappings, organized criminality and militias, stated Ben Shepherd, consulting fellow with the Chatham Home Africa Program.
It happened on one of many principal roads from Goma, a well-traveled highway that’s usually seen as safe, he stated, including that it might be troublesome to know at this level if it was a random, opportunistic assault on a convoy or a deliberate assault.
U.N. peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix instructed a beforehand deliberate information convention Monday that the willpower of whether or not roads are secure is generally made by U.N. safety officers within the nation. He stated he had no particulars on “the precise unfolding of the incident.”
“The investigation will convey, hopefully, readability to that,″ Lacroix added.
Nicole Winfield reported from Rome. Carley Petesch in Dakar, Senegal, Lorne Prepare dinner in Brussels, Frances D’Emilio in Rome, Edith M. Lederer in New York, and Andrew Meldrum in Johannesburg, contributed to this report.
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