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British tourists kidnapped in Congo speak out after being freed

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By Sallyann Nicholls
British tourists kidnapped in Congo speak out after being freed
Copyright  REUTERS

Two British tourists who were kidnapped in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on Friday say they feel "relieved" and "very grateful" after being freed on Sunday.

The pair were gorilla trekking at Virunga National Park on the eastern border when their convoy was ambushed by armed militants.

They have been named as Bethan Davies and Robert Jesty.

A statement released on behalf of the couple said: “We are very relieved that there has been a positive outcome to the kidnapping and are very grateful for the excellent support we have received.

"We do not plan to comment further.”

Earlier on Sunday,  Britain’s foreign minister Boris Johnson said he was "delighted" while announcing news of the tourists' release on Twitter.

"Delighted that two British nationals held hostage in DRC have been released," he wrote. "I pay tribute to the help of the DRC authorities and Congolese Insitute of Nature Conservation."

It is not yet known how Davies and Jesty's release was secured.

A park ranger who tried to protect them was shot dead by the attackers. She was identified as 25-year-old Rachel Katumwa on Saturday.

The British Foreign Office confirmed it was in touch with the Congolese authorities following the incident and said its staff were supporting the tourists’ families.

Facebook/Rachel Katumwa
Rachel Katumwa was shot and killed in Friday's ambush.Facebook/Rachel Katumwa

On its website, it has advised against "all but essential travel" to some Eastern cities amid an increase in reports of attacks by armed groups as well as military and police stop-and-search checkpoints.

Rebel groups and militias control large swathes of the country's east and more than 175 rangers have died protecting Virunga National Park, which is adjacent to neighboring Rwanda and Uganda, since it was founded in 1925.

But still the area has attracted a growing number of visitors who seek out its endangered mountain gorillas and the active Nyiragongo volcano.