The Italian ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a World Food Programme (WFP) staff member, together with an Italian embassy official, were killed on Monday during an attack on a UN convoy in the east of the country, the agency has said.
A number of other passengers travelling in the joint field mission were injured.
The group was travelling from Goma, the capital of the North Kivu province, to visit a WFP-run school feeding programme in Rutshuru (about 40 miles north of Goma), the agency said in a statement.
“WFP will work with national authorities to determine the details behind the attack, which occurred on a road that had previously been cleared for travel without security escorts”, the agency added, noting that it is in close contact with the Italian authorities through its offices at its Rome headquarters and in the DRC.
According to media reports, the attack took place around 10 am local time. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although a number of armed groups are active in the region.
Guterres expresses condolences
The UN Secretary-General António Guterres, expressed his deepest condolences to the families of the deceased, as well as to the Governments of Italy and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in a statement issued later on Monday.
“He further expresses his full solidarity with the WFP colleagues and the entire United Nations team in the country. Mr. Guterres called on the Government of the DRC “to investigate swiftly this heinous targeting of a United Nations joint field mission and to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
He made it clear that the UN would continue to support the Government and people, “in their efforts to bring about peace and stability in the east of the country.”
MONUSCO deputy calls for ‘determined’ investigation
The acting head of the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC, MONUSCO, said in a statement that he was “devastated” by news of the attack.
Deputy Special Representative David McLachlan-Karr strongly condemned the assault and declared that “those responsible…must be identified and prosecuted with the utmost determination.”
He offered his deepest condolences to the families of the three victims, to the Republic of Italy and the WFP global family. He added that Ambassador Attanasio had received emergency treatment at MONUSCO, but to no avail. “The first two victims were killed during the attack”, said the statement.
Speaking to reporters at the regular World Health Organization briefing on Monday in Geneva, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “deeply saddened and extremely concerned” by the attack in the eastern region where a recent virulent Ebola outbreak has added to the daily challenges posed by armedgroups acting with impunity.
A frequent visitor to the region where WHO also has a large presence, the Director-General expressed his deepest condolences to the families of the dead, and the people and Government of Italy.