Rwandan rebels on Tuesday denied the accusations behind the killing of the Italian ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and instead accused the DRC and Rwandan troops of revealing details about the attack.
Luca Atanasio, 43, died on Monday after a World Food Program (WFP) fleet was ambushed in a dangerous location in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The envoy’s Italian bodyguard, Vittorio Iakovatch, and an unidentified Congolese driver also died on an excursion.
On Monday, the DRC’s Interior Ministry accused the killing of “members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR)”, a Rwandan Hutu rebel group that has plagued the region for more than a quarter of a century.
However, the FDLR denied the allegations in a statement received by the AFP on Tuesday, accusing the attacks of the Rwandan army and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC).
The ambassador’s convoy said it was attacked “not far from FARDC’s location” near the Rwandan border.
“The responsibility for this sneaky killing lies with the ranks of these two troops and their sponsors, who have formed an unnatural alliance to perpetuate the looting of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.”
The FDLR called on Kinshasa and the UN peacekeeper MONUSCO to “shine light” on the killings “rather than rushing to accuse them.”
Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwandan authorities have not reported the existence of regular Rwandan troops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
However, experts from the US monitor Kivu Security Tracker (KST) told AFP that the Hutu rebel group has a presence in the region.
“The FDLR is near where the attack took place. Rwandan rebels are in the area of potential responsibility for the attack,” the expert said on anonymous terms.
Numerous militias roamed the four eastern states of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, many of which were heritage of the war in the 1990s, attacking neighboring countries in south-central Africa and killing millions.
Some of the founders of the FDLR were involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, during which the majority of Hutu slaughtered 800,000. Not only Tutsi, but also moderates of Hutu were slaughtered.
The group opposes the current Rwandan government, but has not launched a major attack in Rwanda since 2001.
The attack on Monday occurred north of Goma, the capital of North Kivu on Route 2. This is a road through a forested mountainous region adjacent to the porous border with Rwanda.
The world-famous Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed wildlife sanctuary, a paradise for endangered mountain gorillas, spans the region.
The office of President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said Atanasio arrived in Goma on a MONUSCO plane Friday morning.
He said he had taken a bodyguard and WFP workers on Monday morning for a two-vehicle WFP convoy to Kiwanja in the Rutshuru region.
The convoy was ambushed 3 km (1.8 miles) from its destination by five AK-47 assault rifles and six assailants armed with machete.
Cheong Wa Dae said, “They proceeded by firing warning shots before forcing the people in the car out and chasing deep into the (Wirunga) park. It forced one of the drivers to panic. I went by shooting. “
Nearby park rangers and the military heard the noise and tracked the attackers.
“At 500 meters (from the ambush), the kidnapper fired at close range to the bodyguard and ambassador who died on the spot and hit the abdomen,” the president said.
On Tuesday, a Roman newspaper asked questions about safety preparations for a trip after the Italian government expressed shock and anger at the attack.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Interior Ministry said in a statement Monday that security forces and state officials had not been given advance warning of the trip.
“Despite its reputation for instability, the lack of information about their presence in this part of the country also provides extra security to convoys to help. I couldn’t even come. “
A UN humanitarian official in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said this meant that the convoy had to have at least two vehicles.
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