The Italian Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was killed on Monday in an attack in the eastern province of North Kivu. This act reminds the international community of the often forgotten conflicts which have ravaged the eastern part of the country for 25 years.
Ambassador Luca Attanasio, 43, ‘died of his gunshot wounds’, a senior diplomatic source in Kinshasa told AFP. The Italian Foreign Ministry confirmed shortly after, expressing its ‘deep sadness’.
On a field visit with the World Food Program (WFP) to the north of Goma, the capital of North Kivu, the ambassador and his convoy were targeted by unidentified armed men around 10:15 a.m., according to the senior diplomat. rank.
Seriously ‘shot in the abdomen’, the ambassador was evacuated to a hospital in Goma ‘in critical condition’, before succumbing to his wounds, he told AFP.
Two other people were also killed during the attack on the convoy, for his part, Major Guillaume Djike, army spokesman in the North Kivu region, told AFP. The two other victims are said to be the Congolese driver and the ambassador’s bodyguard, according to several sources.
In two vehicles
The ambassador was traveling by car ‘in a Monusco convoy’, the United Nations mission present in the DRC for more than twenty years, said the press release from the Italian ministry. The victims were in a convoy of two WFP vehicles, without MONUSCO presence, said a source from the United Nations Mission in Congo (MONUSCO).
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, who was in Brussels for a meeting with his European counterparts, announced his early return to Rome.
European Council President Charles Michel said he was ‘shocked by the attack on a convoy’ and ‘the lives lost’. ‘The EU will stand by the DRC and its people’ for ‘security and peace’, he added on Twitter, offering his condolences to the family in Italian.
Luca Attanasio had been ambassador to the DRC since October 2019, after arriving in the country two years earlier as head of mission, according to his official biography. He entered a diplomatic career at the end of 2003, after studying business at the Luigi Bocconi University of Milan.
He started in the Directorate of Economic Affairs, before working on African issues and international cooperation. Abroad, he was first head of the economic and commercial section at the Bern embassy (2006-2010), then consul general in Casablanca, Morocco (2010-2013). After a stint in Rome, he also became a counselor at the Italian Embassy in Nigeria in 2015.
Dozens of armed groups
The attack on this WFP convoy took place in Nyiaragongo territory, north of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, which has been plagued by violence from dozens of armed groups for more than 25 years.
Near the scene of the tragedy are the strongholds of the Rwandan Hutu rebellion FDLR and the Congolese Hutu militias of Nyatura. Congolese M-23 rebels are also located in the area according to an expert from the Kivu Security Barometer (KST).
This region is home to the Virunga National Park, of which at least 200 rangers have also been victims of ambushes by armed groups in the course of their duties in recent years. The latest incident dates back to early January, when six rangers were killed in Virunga Park.
Armed groups claim to defend their community but often compete for resources in a region rich in minerals and timber.
Luca Attanasio is the second European ambassador in office shot dead in the DRC, after the Frenchman Philipe Bernard, killed on January 28, 1993 during riots which led to looting in Kinshasa, under the reign of ex-president Mobutu Sese Seko.
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