Italy’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Luca Attanasio, an Italian policeman and their Congolese driver have been killed in an ambush on a United (UN) Nations convoy in eastern DRC.
The ambush on Monday occurred as the convoy carrying Ambassador Luca Attanasio was travelling from the city of Goma to visit a World Food Programme (WFP) school feeding project in Rutshuru according to the United Nations agency. It said several other passengers travelling with the delegation sustained injuries during the attack.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which took place at about 10:15am.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio expressed his “great dismay and immense sorrow” over the attack and broke off from a meeting in Brussels with European Union counterparts to make an early return to Rome.
“The circumstances of this brutal attack are not yet known and no effort will be spared to shed light on what happened,” Di Maio said, paying tribute to the victims.
Nzanzu, the North Kivu governor, said local security forces had not been informed of the delegation’s presence in the area.
“The rebels stopped the WFP convoy with bullets, before bringing down the passengers on board including the ambassador. According to survivors, the rebels wanted money from the ambassador,” a source said.
“They took all the passengers and the ambassador to the bush. And a few minutes later on their way they killed the Congolese driver and then the ambassador’s bodyguard,” he added.
Nzanzu said Attanasio was hit by bullets fired by the attackers during an exchange of fire between the rebels and Virunga park rangers supported by the DRC’s armed forces who were alerted to the attack.
The DRC’s army said troops were searching the area in the Virunga National Park for the assailants.