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Congo, Italy send investigators to the deaths of the ambassadors

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Luca Attanasio, ambassador to Congo since 2017, Carabinieri officer Vittorio Iacovacci and their driver Moustapha Milambo were killed in an ambush Monday as their World Food Program convoy was traveling from Goma, Congo’s eastern regional capital, to to visit a WFP school project in Rutshuru, the UN agency said.

The Congolese Interior Ministry said four others in the convoy had been abducted, but one person has been found since the Congolese army.

The body of the ambassador and officer will be flown to the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, on Monday and then to Rome, according to local media reports.

The Congolese government has blamed the killings on the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, the Rwandan Hutu rebel group known as the FDLR.

The rebel group, however, on Tuesday denied responsibility for the attack.

The FDLR says there is nothing to implicate him in the attack that resulted in the death of the Italian ambassador and urges the Congolese authorities and MONUSCO to do everything they can to shed light on those responsible for the negligent killing, said rebel spokesman Cure Ngoma. . in a statement.

The rebel group noted that the attack took place in the area of ​​three antennas near Goma and the Rwandan border and near the Congolese and Rwandan military positions. He blamed the killings on those forces.

Eastern Congo is home to countless rebel groups all competing for control of parts of the mineral-rich, freely governed Central African nation that is the size of Western Europe.

More than 120 armed groups are active in eastern Congo, which has been insecure for more than 25 years, according to Kivu Security Tracker, a joint project between Human Rights Watch and the Congolese Research Institute to monitor armed violence. in Eastern Congo.

In the specific area of ​​the attack, several armed groups are active including the FDLR, the Nyatura militia and the remnants of former M23 rebels.

Unusual is unusual for a senior diplomat to be targeted in eastern Congo, but attacks are on the rise, said Pierre Boisselet, coordinator of the Kivu Security Tracker.

Attacks on humanitarian workers and abductions of humanitarian workers have increased. Last year we recorded 12 of those incidents in North and South Kiwi, but only one ended in death, he said.

Usually violence by armed groups targets civilians, or civilians are injured between clashes between armed groups and the military.

The attack, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) north of Goma, was near the Virunga National Park.

UN vehicles were hijacked by the attackers and taken to the bushes. The Congolese Army and park rangers for Virunga National Park responded to the attack and there was an exchange of fire, according to North Kivu Governor Carly Nzanzu Kasivita.

Attanasio was shot in the abdomen and then transported to the UN Mission Hospital in Congo where he died from his wounds, according to the Congolese interior ministry. The driver and the police officer died at the scene.

The WFP said the attack took place on a road that had previously been cleared for unsecured travel and was seeking more information from local officials on the attack.

The Congolese Interior Ministry said that the provincial authorities of North Kivu were not aware of the presence of the Italian ambassador and therefore did not provide him with security measures. UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix said determining whether roads are normally safe is done by UN security officials in the country.

He said there were no details on the exact disclosure of the incident and that the investigation would, hopefully, bring clarity to this.

The Italys Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it would spare no effort to find out exactly what happened in the tragic attack.

In Rome, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said he would soon inform Parliament about the attack and warned against premature reconstructions of what happened. A moment of silence was scheduled in Parliament on Tuesday. Rome prosecutors have opened an investigation, which is done whenever an Italian citizen is killed abroad.

Flags in Italian government buildings flew in half of the headquarters as homage was paid to the two men. In an obituary on the front page under the leadership of Corriere della Sera, Secretary-General Elisabetta Belloni said Attanasio strongly believed that through multilateral diplomacy, he could help make the world a better place.

The attack took place in the same area where two Britons were abducted by unidentified gunmen in 2018, although they were released a few days later.

Eastern Congo remains one of the most unsafe parts of the country lying. More than 2,000 civilians were killed last year in the eastern provinces of Congo by armed rebel groups, according to UN reports last week.

The UN peacekeeping mission has been working to reduce its presence of more than 17,000 troops in the country and hand over its security work to the Congolese authorities.

Petesch reported from Dakar, Senegal. Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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