Italian ambassador to the Congo assassinated in ambush

United Nations soldiers patrol the ambush area this Monday.
United Nations soldiers patrol the ambush area this Monday.ALEXIS HUGUET / AFP

The Italian ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Luca Attanasio, 43, a carabiniere who was accompanying him, 30, and the Congolese driver of his vehicle were killed on Monday near the city of Goma, in the northeast of the country, during an attack on a convoy of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), according to has confirmed the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The attack, an attempted kidnapping according to the authorities of the Virunga National Park, takes place in a context of increasing violence in the region. struck by a conflict that has lasted for 25 years and in which more than a hundred armed groups intervene.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella has expressed his regret through an official statement: “Regretting this cowardly act of violence, all Italians send our condolences to the families of the victims, as well as our deepest condolences and total solidarity.” For his part, the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Luigi Di Maio, who was at a meeting in Brussels, has expressed his “immense pain” over the deaths in another statement. “Two state servants who have been violently murdered in the line of duty,” said the head of Italian diplomacy, adding that “the circumstances of this brutal attack are not yet known and no effort will be spared to clarify what happened.”

The Congolese government has accused the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), made up of Hutu rebels, of being responsible for this attack, according to the Interior Ministry in a statement in which it has also reported that four people were kidnapped, one of whom could later be rescued. The World Food Program (WFP), which indicated that an unknown number of people were injured, has specified in a press release that it was an ambush on a road that had previously been controlled to be able to cross it without armed escort. The convoy, made up of two vehicles, had left the city of Goma and was on its way to visit a feeding project in a school located in the town of Rutshuru when it was attacked.

Last week, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) denounced the increased violence against civilians in the eastern provinces of the DRC, especially in North Kivu, Ituri and South Kivu, where more than 2,000 civilians were killed in the conflict in 2020 alone. Among the most active armed groups operating in the area are the aforementioned FDLR, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (Codeco), the Nyatura Hutu militias, the Mai Mai , the M23 and the Islamic State in Central Africa (ISCA, for its acronym in English). There are already 5.2 million displaced by the conflict.

UNHCR assures that this increase in violence, which has continued during the beginning of 2021 with attacks such as the one that caused the death of six guardians of Virunga national park last January, it is “a systematic pattern to disrupt the lives of civilians, instill panic and create chaos.” For its part, Unicef ​​also referred last week to the escalation of violence in eastern DRC and assured that three million minors displaced by the violence are at risk. “Entire families, including children, have been stabbed to death. Health centers and schools have been looted, and entire villages have been set on fire, ”the United Nations agency said in a statement.

Luca Attanasio, 43, entered the diplomatic career in 2003 after studying economics at the Luigi Bocconi University in Milan, according to his official biography. Linked for years to Africa and cooperation, he had held the positions of head of the economic section of the Italian Embassy in Bern, consul general in Casablanca and, after a stay in Rome, counselor of the Embassy in Abuja (Nigeria). In 2017, he joined the diplomatic delegation in the DRC and was promoted to ambassador in October 2019.

A spokesperson for the alto representative of the European Union for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, has described the incident as “extremely worrying.” The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, also had words of support for the families of the victims and for the Congolese: “Security and peace must be guaranteed. The EU will be by the side of the DRC and its population ”, he said via Twitter. The President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, Has expressed, in the same social network, his “deep regret” for the death of the three victims. For her part, the Spanish Foreign Minister, Arancha González Laya, has also shown her solidarity with Italy in a tweet.

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