Italian ambassador among three killed in attack on Congo convoy

KINSHASA, CONGO (AP) — The Italian ambassador to Congo, an Italian Carabinieri police officer and their Congolese driver were killed on Monday when gunmen attacked a United Nations (UN) convoy travelling to a school in eastern Congo, the Italian Foreign Ministry and residents said.

Luca Attanasio, serving at the Italian embassy in the country since 2017, Carabinieri officer Vittorio Iacovacci and their driver Moustapha Milambo were killed, officials said. Other members of the convoy were wounded and taken to a hospital, the World Food Program (WFP) said.

Congo’s interior ministry said four others in the convoy were kidnapped, but one person has since been found by Congo’s army.

The ambush occurred as the convoy was travelling from Goma, Congo’s eastern regional capital, to visit a WFP school project in Rutshuru, the UN agency said.

The WFP said the attack occurred on a road that had been cleared previously for travel without security escorts, and it was seeking more information from local officials on the attack. Eastern Congo is home to myriad rebel groups all vying for control of the mineral-rich Central African nation that is the size of Western Europe.

The attack, about 25 kilometres north of Goma, was right next to Virunga National Park. North Kivu Governor Carly Nzanzu Kasivita said the UN vehicles were hijacked by the attackers and taken into the bush. The Congolese army and park guards for Virunga National Park came to help those who had been attacked, he said.

“There was an exchange of fire. The attackers fired at the bodyguard and the ambassador,” the governor said. Attanasio was shot in the abdomen, according to a statement by Congo’s Interior Ministry. He was then transported to the UN Mission in Congo hospital where he died from his wounds, the ministry said.

Without citing sources, Italian state TV on Monday night said the convoy apparently was the target of a kidnapping attempt with the aim of securing ransom money.

Attanasio, a 43-year-old career diplomat, left behind a wife and three young children.