Rwandan Hutu rebels have denied allegations that they were behind the murder of the Italian ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and instead accused the armies of the DRC and Rwanda of being responsible.
An Italian rifle unit, meanwhile, was expected in the DRC on Tuesday to investigate.
Luca Attanasio death of his wounds Monday after a World Food Program (WFP) convoy was targeted near the eastern city of Goma while on a field trip. The Italian government said an Italian policeman, Vittorio Iacovacci, and a driver he did not identify are also dead.
The DRC’s Interior Ministry blamed the killings on “members of the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda. [FDLR]A Rwandan Hutu rebel group that has raged in the region for over a quarter of a century.
But the FDLR rejected the allegation in a statement received Tuesday by the AFP news agency.
He indicated that the ambassador’s convoy had been attacked near the Rwandan border, “not far from an FARDC position. [DRC’s armed forces] and the Rwandan soldiers ”.
“Responsibility for this despicable murder lies with the ranks of these two armies and their sponsors who forged an unnatural alliance to perpetuate the looting of eastern DRC,” he said.
The FDLR denied “being involved in the attack” and called on Kinshasa and the UN peacekeeping force, MONUSCO, to “shed light” on the killings “instead of resorting to accusations. early ”.
The authorities of the DRC and Rwanda did not report the presence of regular Rwandan troops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
But an analyst from the Kivu Security Tracker, an American observer, said: “The FDLR are close to where the attack took place. It is in the realm of possibility that the Rwandan rebels are responsible for this attack.
It is unusual for a high-level diplomat to be targeted in eastern DRC, but attacks are increasing, said Pierre Boisselet, coordinator of the Kivu Security Tracker.
“Attacks on aid workers and kidnappings of aid workers have increased. Last year we recorded 12 of these incidents in North and South Kivu, but only one resulted in a death, ”he said.
“Usually, violence by armed groups targets civilians,” or civilians are injured in the midst of clashes between armed groups and the military.
The attack, 25 km (15 miles) north of Goma, was right next to Virunga National Park.
The DRC’s interior ministry said four other people in the convoy were kidnapped, but one person was found by the military.
The UN vehicles were hijacked by the attackers and taken into the bush. The Congolese army and park rangers from Virunga National Park responded to the attack and there was an exchange of fire, according to North Kivu Governor Carly Nzanzu Kasivita.
Attanasio was shot in the abdomen and then taken to the United Nations Mission in Congo hospital where he died from his injuries, according to the Interior Ministry. The driver and the police officer died at the scene.
WFP said the attack took place on a road that had previously been allowed to travel without security escort, and it was seeking more information from local officials about the attack.
UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix said determination of road safety is normally carried out by UN security officials in the country.
He said he had no details of “the exact sequence of the incident” and that “the investigation will hopefully shed some light on this.”
Attanasio, 43, has represented Italy in Kinshasa since 2017, first as head of mission and then as ambassador from October 2019.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella described the ambush as a “cowardly attack”.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres issued a statement urging the DRC to promptly investigate “heinous targeting” of a UN mission.
I strongly condemn the attack on a @WFP joint field mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which resulted in the murder of the Italian ambassador to the country, his bodyguard and a WFP colleague.
The perpetrators must be brought to justice. https://t.co/HnlwbHLA6o
– António Guterres (@antonioguterres) February 22, 2021
Dozens of militias roam the four eastern provinces of the DRC, often inherited from the wars of the 1990s that drew in its regional neighbors and killed millions of people.
Monday’s attack occurred in the mountainous and thick forested terrain of Nyiaragongo territory – north of the North Kivu capital of Goma – one of the most dangerous regions in the country.
The FDLR are part of a number of armed groups operating there.
Eastern DRC remains one of the most precarious regions of this expansive country. More than 2,000 civilians were killed last year by armed rebel groups, according to a UN report last week.
Attanasio is the second European Ambassador to be killed while serving in the DRC. In January 1993, the French Ambassador Philippe Bernard was killed during riots in Kinshasa started by troops opposed to former President Mobutu Sese Seke.