The Italian Foreign Ministry said that the country’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo was killed in an attack in the east of the country.
A statement said Luca Atanasio, 43, died in hospital on Monday after the United Nations convoy in which he was traveling came under fire near Goma.
The convoy was reportedly belonging to the United Nations World Food Program.
Reports stated that an Italian military police officer, who was traveling with the Italian envoy, was killed along with a third person.
“It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirms the death of the Italian ambassador today in Goma,” the ministry statement said.
The foreign minister, Luigi Di Maio, expressed “great dismay and deep sadness” at the killing of these people.
“We will spare no effort in shedding light on what happened,” he said.
The attack is believed to have been an attempted kidnapping, according to officials in the nearby Virunga National Park.
Reuters news agency quoted officials as saying that the accident occurred at around 10:15 local time north of Goma.
It is not known yet who was behind the attack, but several armed groups are known to operate in and around the park.
Militias in the east of the country regularly clash with each other, as a large UN force struggles to maintain peace.
Atanasio has been representing Italy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 2017. He joined the diplomatic corps in 2003 and spent time in Morocco and Nigeria.
For many years, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was suffering from a brutal civil war that engulfed many neighboring countries.
The conflict led to the deaths of about five million people between 1994 and 2003, when some observers described it as the Great African War.
But the end of the conflict did not put an end to the violence. Dozens of militias and rebel groups are still operating in the eastern regions.
The United Nations peacekeeping mission has been in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1999. It is one of the largest peacekeeping operations in the world, with more than 17,000 personnel on the ground.
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