Italian Envoy Killed In DR Congo Attack Blamed On Rwandan Hutu Rebels
Goma, DR Congo, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 23rd Feb, 2021 ) :Italy's ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo was among three people killed on Monday when a UN convoy was ambushed in the country's troubled east, violence the DRC's president called a "terrorist attack" and that was blamed on a Rwandan Hutu rebel group.
Luca Attanasio died of his wounds after a World food Programme (WFP) convoy came under gunfire near Goma while he was on a field trip to visit a school feeding programme, according to a senior diplomatic source in Kinshasa and the WFP.
UN peacekeepers and Congolese troops deployed to the rural area in Kibumba where the attack occurred, walking a dirt track between overgrown brush as they readied to recover bodies and track down the assailants.
A white WFP vehicle had at least one broken window and residents looked on as soldiers made their way through the brush.
A merchant in the area said he saw a body on the ground.
The assailants were "running with the people who were in the cars, in the buses," Julien Amani Kiza told AFP.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella confirmed what he called a "cowardly attack." Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio expressed his "great dismay and immense sorrow", breaking off from a Brussels meeting with EU counterparts to return to Rome.
Earlier, the interior ministry had blamed the killings on "members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR)," a Rwandan Hutu rebel group that has plagued the region for more than a quarter of a century.
Four people were kidnapped, one of whom was later found, the ministry said.
EU chief Ursula von der Leyen expressed "shock" at the attack, in a region "where the population suffers unacceptable violence".
A vast country the size of continental western Europe, the DRC is grappling with numerous conflicts, especially in its remote, mineral-rich east.
According to a US monitor, the Kivu Security Tracker (KST), 122 armed groups were active in North and South Kivu, Ituri and Tanganyika provinces last year.
More than 2,000 civilians were killed, according to UN figures issued last week.
The FDLR is one of a number of armed groups operating there.
Some of the group's founders were involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide during which the Hutu majority slaughtered 800,000 people, mainly Tutsis but also Hutu moderates.
The WFP said Attanasio had been on a fact-finding mission with it.
"The attack... occurred on a road that had previously been cleared for travel without security escorts." But the DRC interior ministry said the security services and provincial authorities had not been given advance warning and was unable to provide security for that reason.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres issued a statement urging the DRC to swiftly investigate a "heinous targeting" of a UN mission.
"I remember his infectious smile, his class, his great knowledge of African affairs," she said.
Attanasio is the second European ambassador to have been killed while serving in the DRC.