Wednesday, February 24, 2021

DRC: Italian ambassador killed, Kinshasa condemns “terrorist attack”


At the time of the attack, he was traveling aboard a World Food Program (WFP) convoy in the province of North Kivu, considered one of the most dangerous areas in Congo, on the edge of the national park of Virunga.

Two other people were killed in the attack: the Congolese driver of the PAM and the Italian bodyguard of the ambassador, according to Congolese and Italian sources.


>>> READ ALSO: DR Congo: the Italian ambassador killed in an armed attack in the East


Under the shocked gaze of several dozen residents, peacekeepers and Congolese army soldiers deployed in large numbers along the road between Goma and Kibumba, where the attack took place, to secure the scene. and start the hunt for the attackers.

The white WFP vehicle carrying the ambassador was parked on the side of the road, with windows shattered by attackers’ fire, not far from green hills.

Peacekeepers recovered the body of the bodyguard, an AFP team found.

In a message read in the evening by his spokesman on national television, Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi condemned “with the greatest firmness this terrorist attack”.

The Congolese Interior Ministry has previously accused the Rwandan Hutu rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) of being behind the deadly attack on the convoy.

The FDLR are one of the many formidable armed groups that threaten civilians in eastern DRC on a daily basis. The FDRL were created in the early 2000s by Rwandan Hutu rebels. Some of them participated in the genocide of the Tutsis in April-July 1994 in neighboring Rwanda, before taking refuge in eastern DRC, lastingly destabilizing the region.

Four people were kidnapped during the attack on the convoy of the Italian ambassador, one of which “was found” by Congolese soldiers, according to the Congolese interior ministry.

The attack, according to WFP, also left several injured.

– A “cowardly attack” –

Before being targeted, the victims were traveling in two WFP vehicles, without an escort from the United Nations Mission in Congo (MONUSCO), said a MONUSCO source.

“The security services and the provincial authorities could neither ensure special security measures for the convoy, nor come to the aid (to the people who were there, editor’s note) for lack of information on their presence in this part of the country yet deemed unstable, “said the Congolese Ministry of the Interior.


>>> READ ALSO: Who is Luca Attanasio, the Italian diplomat who loved Africa, assassinated in the DRC?


President Tshisekedi has called for an investigation so that the perpetrators of the attack are “identified and brought to justice”.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has also called on the DRC to “investigate diligently” this attack, strongly condemned in a statement by the 15 members of the UN Security Council.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, who was in Brussels for a meeting with his European counterparts, announced his early return to Rome. Italian President Sergio Mattarella has denounced a “cowardly attack”.

European Council President Charles Michel said he was “shocked” by “the lives lost”. “The EU will remain alongside the DRC and its people” for “security and peace”, he added.

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. Married and father of three little girls, he was one of the youngest Italian ambassadors, according to the Italian press.

In Kinshasa, a resident, Aristotle Ibosso, confides that he “very much regrets the disappearance” of Mr. Attanasio. “He was very charitable, I even remember a watch he gave me,” he said.

– Armed groups –

The attack on the WFP convoy took place in the village of Kibumba, in the territory of Nyiaragongo.

Nearby are the strongholds of the Rwandan Hutu rebellion FDLR and the Congolese Hutu militias Nyatura. Congolese M-23 rebels are also located in the area, according to an expert from the Kivu Security Barometer (KST).

The village sits on the edge of Virunga National Park, of which 200 rangers have been killed since the park was established in 1925.

The latest attack dates back to early January, when six rangers were killed in this park, famous for its gorillas.

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 Frenchman Philippe Bernard, killed on January 28, 1993 during riots which led to looting in Kinshasa, under the reign of President Mobutu Sese Seko.

“France condemns in the strongest terms” the attack and “stands by Italy’s side in this ordeal,” said the French Foreign Ministry. “Those responsible for this attack will have to be identified and answer for their actions.”



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