Italian Ambassador Amongst Three Killed in Assault on U.N. Convoy in Congo
For Luca Attanasio, Italy’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, humanitarian work was on the core of his mission. The 43-year-old had moved together with his spouse to the capital, Kinshasa, in 2017, the place their household grew to incorporate three younger daughters. He rose to the rank of ambassador in 2019, the head of his diplomatic profession.
On Monday, Mr. Attanasio was amongst three individuals killed in an assault on a humanitarian convoy close to the town of Goma, the World Meals Program and Italy’s Overseas Ministry mentioned, the newest in a wave of violence in that a part of the central African nation.
The realm the place the assault came about, North Kivu Province within the east of the nation nestled towards the border with Rwanda, is called a hotbed of violent exercise, and is dwelling to a tangled net of dozens of armed teams.
The deaths of Mr. Attanasio; an Italian Embassy official, named by the Overseas Ministry as Vittorio Iacovacci; and Mustapha Milambo, a driver for the World Meals Program, have rattled the worldwide diplomatic group and drawn condemnation from throughout the globe.
All three males have been in a automotive that was a part of a convoy of automobiles headed north from the town of Goma to a World Meals Program initiative at a faculty, when their convoy was stopped by armed males. The group killed Mr. Milambo, and led the remainder of the convoy into the forest, trying to kidnap them, in accordance with Carly Nzanzu Kasivita, the governor of the North Kivu Province the place the assault occurred.
However park rangers and a Congolese Military unit close by responded. Throughout an trade of gunfire, the attackers shot the 2 Italian males, the governor mentioned. Photos posted by native journalists on social media present the visibly injured ambassador being cradled behind a army truck, as a person clasped the ambassador’s hand in his, holding it over Mr. Attanasio’s chest.
Mr. Attanasio was rushed for emergency therapy at a United Nations hospital in Goma the place he died.
The World Meals Program mentioned the assault “occurred on a street that had beforehand been cleared for journey with out safety escorts” and mentioned it might be working with the native authorities to find out the small print of the assault.
Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s overseas minister, realized the information throughout a gathering in Brussels and left early to return to Rome. Mr. Di Maio expressed “immense sorrow for what occurred,” the Overseas Ministry mentioned in an announcement.
“Two civil servants have been violently taken away from us whereas finishing up their duties,” the ministry mentioned. “The circumstances of this brutal assault are but to be recognized, however no effort will likely be spared to make clear what occurred.”
Italy’s new prime minister, Mario Draghi, despatched out a observe expressing his “deep condolences and that of the federal government for the tragic demise.”
Marie Tumba Nzeza, Congo’s minister of overseas affairs, provided her condolences on behalf of the federal government and mentioned in a video posted on social media that the nation would do every little thing in its energy to “discover out who’s behind this despicable homicide.”
Mr. Kasivita, the governor of North Kivu, mentioned that the assault had taken place in an space the place the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda had been working for a very long time, however that investigations have been persevering with. The group is among the largest overseas armed teams within the nation, a insurgent group with hyperlinks to 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
“In accordance with preliminary investigations, they have been killed by a bunch of six individuals who spoke Kinyarwanda,” the governor mentioned in a phone interview, referencing the language spoken in Rwanda.
The Congolese authorities mentioned in an announcement that the safety providers and authorities weren’t knowledgeable of the presence of the diplomat within the area which is “deemed unstable.”
The convoy was headed from Goma to Rutshuru, a city about 45 miles north, on a route that might took the automobiles via Virunga Nationwide Park. The World Meals Program mentioned that quite a lot of different individuals have been injured within the assault.
A wave of violence has engulfed the realm in current weeks, with a lethal assault by a special militia in Virunga Nationwide Park leaving six individuals lifeless final month.
Virunga, Africa’s first nationwide park and a Unesco World Heritage website, is called the house of the area’s famed, and endangered, mountain gorillas. However the North Kivu area has additionally been the scene of standard violence, as spillover from the battle between the federal government and militia teams, in addition to the fallout of neighboring conflicts, have performed on the market. Final 12 months, 17 individuals have been killed in one other assault in Virunga, which was additionally believed to have been carried out by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda.
Within the years because it gained independence in 1960, after a brutal colonial interval, the Democratic Republic of Congo has been wracked by civil wars and for many years by the rule of a succession of corrupt dictators.
The nation skilled its first peaceable democratic switch of energy after independence in January 2019, when President Felix Tshisekedi was elected, however the course of was extensively criticized as fraudulent.
The United Nations mission has been lively within the nation since 2010, after taking up from an earlier peace mission that had been in place since 1999.
Tributes poured in for Mr. Attanasio from throughout the diplomatic group. He was a well-respected diplomat who started his profession in 2003 and shortly rose via the ranks. His work overseas started in Switzerland and continued in Morocco as a consul normal, and later he moved on to Nigeria.
“He was a critical, younger diplomat who believed that humanitarian work was a part of his mission,” mentioned Mario Giro, who was Italy’s deputy Overseas Minister in 2017, when Mr. Attanasio was appointed to the position in Kinshasa.
Mr. Giro, who’s now a senior adviser to the president, grew to become buddies with Mr. Attanasio through the years and mentioned that he was a really proactive ambassador who visited all the Italian humanitarian missions in Congo.
Mr. Giro mentioned the ambassador was not a danger taker, and Monday’s journey was a routine convoy as a part of his duties.
Final 12 months, Mr. Attanasio was awarded a global peace prize in Italy. In his acceptance speech, he mentioned that the ambassador’s position was to be near Italians dwelling in Congo, and that it was essential to his household to reside there.
“Some are shocked by this alternative, particularly for the dangers that it entails,” he mentioned. “However it’s our responsibility to set an instance.”
Matina Stevis-Gridneff contributed reporting from Brussels and Steve Wembi from Kinshasa.
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