Italy’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo was killed on Monday after a UN convoy was attacked in Goma, the Italian foreign ministry said in a statement.
Luca Attanasio died alongside an Italian soldier, Vittorio Iacovacci, after their car was attacked as they traveled in a World Food Programme (WFP) convoy.
Mr Attanasio, who had been appointed to the DRC in early 2018, suffered “gunshot wounds to the abdomen,” AFP reported.
“It is with deep sorrow that the Farnesina confirms the death, today in Goma, of the Ambassador of Italy to the Democratic Republic of Congo Luca Attanasio and of a soldier from the Carabinieri,” the ministry said in a statement shared on its Facebook page.
Min. @luigidimaio: "Ho appreso con grande sgomento e immenso dolore della morte oggi del nostro Ambasciatore nella Repubblica Democratica del Congo e di un militare dell’Arma dei Carabinieri." […] https://t.co/VEdmhplxqp pic.twitter.com/6qYqn4xakT
— Farnesina 🇮🇹 (@ItalyMFA) February 22, 2021
The convoy was attacked around 10:15 a.m. Monday in eastern Congo, Al Jazeera reported.
Four other people died in the attack, including the envoy’s driver and bodyguard, AFP noted, quoting sources and Guillaume Djike, the army’s spokesman in North Kivu province, a conflict-prone region in the central African nation.
“The three fatalities have been identified as the Italian Ambassador to DRC, Luca Attanasio, an Italian embassy official, and a WFP driver,” the WFP said in a statement
“The delegation was travelling from Goma to visit a WFP school feeding programme in Rutshuru when the incident took place.”
The DRC’s army said its troops were searching the area for the assailants, the newspaper added.
While it was not immediately clear who was behind the attack, WFP said it was seeking information from national authorities to determine the details behind the attack, which occurred on a road that had previously been cleared for travel without security escorts.
“WFP is in close contact with the Italian authorities through its offices at its Rome headquarters and in the DRC.”
Italy’s foreign minister, Luigi Di Maio, described the ambush on its ambassador as “a dark and sad day for Italy.”
Africa’s second largest country, DRC, has, since the 2000s been grappling with military conflict with scores of militias, especially around the Kivu region, which was a major battleground in the first and second Congo wars.
The conflicts in the region, and by extension the four eastern provinces in DRC – South Kivu, North Kivu, Ituri, Haut-Uele – have claimed millions of lives and displaced thousands.
Human Rights Watch and the New York University-based Congo Research Group estimated that armed troops in DRC’s eastern Kivu region have killed over 1,900 civilians and kidnapped at least 3,300 people since June 2017 to June 2019.
Despite being home to 70 per cent of the world’s coltan, a third of its cobalt, more than 30% of its diamond reserves, and a tenth of its copper, Congolese citizens are among the poorest in the world.
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