Kinshasa, Congo-The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and residents said that when gunmen attacked a UN convoy heading to a school in eastern Congo on Monday, the Italian ambassador to Congo, an Italian military police and their Congolese driver were killed.
The United Nations agency said the ambush occurred when a convoy set off from Goma, the capital of eastern Congo, to visit the WFP school project in Rutshuru.
The World Food Program said the attack took place on a road that had not previously been allowed by security guards. It is seeking more information about the attack from local officials. Eastern Congo is home to numerous insurgent groups, all of which are vying for control of the mineral-rich Central African countries like Western Europe.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs said that Luca Attanasio has been the Italian ambassador to the country since 201
The attack was located a few miles north of Goma, right next to Virunga National Park. The governor of North Kivu, Carly Nzanzu Kasivita, said that the United Nations vehicle was hijacked by the attackers and taken into the jungle. He said that the Congolese army and the Virunga National Park’s park guard came to help those who were attacked.
“There was a firefight. The attackers shot at the bodyguard and the ambassador.” The governor said, adding that the ambassador later died of injuries.
Attanasio, a 43-year-old professional diplomat, left his wife and three children.
The head of the local civil society group Mambo Kawi said that the attack took place in the same area, and in 2018 two Britons were kidnapped by unidentified gunmen.
He said: “The situation is very tense.”
In eastern Congo last year, armed groups violently killed more than 2,000 civilians. Their brutal attacks also displaced 5.2 million people. The United Nations said this is one of the most serious humanitarian crises in the world.
The Congolese Minister of Foreign Affairs Marie Tumba Nzenza expressed condolences and assured the Italian government that the Congolese government will do everything it can to find the man behind the murder.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella (Sergio Mattarella) and Prime Minister Mario Draghi (Mario Draghi) also expressed condolences to the families of the victims.
Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio (Luigi Di Maio) said: “The circumstances of this brutal attack are still unclear, and I will spare no effort to explain what happened.”
Di Maio flew from Brussels to Rome, met Draghi, and briefed the Italian parliamentarians about the attack. The Rome Prosecutor’s Office regularly takes the lead in investigating Italians who are victims of crimes abroad.
Italian national television reported that a dedicated Carabinieri investigation unit is heading to Jinshasha and is expected to arrive on Tuesday.
After holding diplomatic positions in Switzerland, Morocco and Nigeria, Atanasio was sent to the Italian embassy in Kinshasa in September 2017.
In October last year, he won the Nasiri International Peace Prize at a ceremony held in a church in southern Italy. According to the La Repubblica, Attanasio “has contributed to the realization of important humanitarian projects, with outstanding altruism, dedication and spirit of serving people in difficult circumstances”.
It quoted Atanasio as saying: “Unfortunately, the things we take for granted in Italy are not in Congo, where there are many problems that need to be resolved.”
Atanasio said that the role of the ambassador “is to maintain a close relationship with the Italians, but also to contribute to the realization of peace.” There are about 1,000 Italians in Congo.
Before experiencing decades of corrupt dictatorship, the Congo experienced one of the cruelest colonial rule in the world. Later, back-to-back civil war broke out in some neighboring countries. In January 2019, the first peaceful and democratic transfer of Congo’s electricity supply since independence was after the election of President Felix Tsisekedi in 1960.
The United Nations peacekeeping mission has been working to reduce the presence of more than 17,000 troops in the country and hand over their security work to the Congolese authorities.