Italian ambassador to Congo killed in convoy attack

Italian ambassador to Congo killed in convoy attack
© getty

An attack on a United Nations convoy has killed the Italian ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Italy’s foreign ministry said Monday.

The ministry said the convoy, which belonged to the UN World Food Program, came under fire near Goma, the capital of North Kivu province in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Casualties included Ambassador Luca Attanasio, Italian military police officer Vittorio Iacovacci and an unnamed third person, according to the BBC.

Officials at Virunga National Park, a hotspot for armed militant groups, believe the attack occurred around 10:15 a.m. local time and was part of an attempted kidnapping.

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In a statement, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said "No effort will be spared to shed light on what happened” and expressed “great dismay and immense sorrow” at the attack.

The eastern region of the African nation, the site of a 17-year conflict, has stretched a large UN contingent thin. Before that, a civil war from 1994 to 2003 killed about 5 million people. The UN has about 17,000 peacekeeping personnel on the ground in the country.

Attanasio had been a diplomat since 2003 and served as ambassador to the Democratic Republic since 2017.

“The Italian republic is in mourning for these servants of the state who lost their lives,” President Sergio Mattarella said in a statement, according to Al Jazeera.

“The rebels stopped the WFP convoy with bullets, before bringing down the passengers on board including the ambassador,” Provincial Governor Carly Nzanzu told Al Jazeera. “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.”

Nzanzu told the network local security forces had not been informed the delegation was traveling in the area and was traveling without security. He said the ambassador was shot during a firefight between the gunmen and park rangers.