ROME, 24 February 2021 – The mortal remains of Luca Attanasio, the Italian envoy killed in an ambush in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), has been flown back to Rome.
Attanasio’s body along with the remains of his bodyguard, Vittorio Iacovacci, left the eastern Congolese city of Goma Tuesday.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi was on hand at Rome’s Ciampino Airport to receive the caskets of the two.
Both coffins were draped in Italian flags.
The two were killed Monday in an ambush on a United Nations convoy in the Virunga National Park along with Moustapha Milambo, a local driver for the UN World Food Program.
The two-vehicle convoy was ambushed by six assailants, armed with five AK-47 assault rifles and a machete.
The assailants reportedly fired warning shots in the air, forcing the convoy to a halt and ordering passengers out of the vehciles.
The attackers were ordering the Italian envoy and his bodyguard tofollow them into the Virunga National Park when park rangers, who had heard the gunshot in which the driver was killed, gave chase.
“Five hundred meters (from the site of the ambush), the kidnappers fired point blank at the bodyguard, who died on the spot, and at the ambassador, hitting him in the abdomen,” the presidency of the Democratic Republic of Congo said Monday in a statement.
The government of DR Congo on Tuesday blamed a Rwandan Hutu rebel group, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), for the killings.
The FDLR denied carrying out the attack, blaming instead soldiers of DR Congo and Rwanda for what the group called a “cowardly assassination”.
The group called on Congolese authorities in Kinshasa and officials of the United Nations peacekeeping force to DR Congo (MONUSCO) to “shed light” on the killings “instead of resorting to hasty accusations”.
DR Congo’s interior ministry said Monday in a statement that the security services and provincial authorities had not been given advance warning of the trip.
The statement said security services and provincial authorities “were unable to provide special security for the convoy or come to its aid because of a lack of information about their presence in this part of the country,” the statement said.
The United Nations World Food Program contradicted that official position, explaining that the attack “occurred on a road that had previously been cleared for travel without security escorts”.