The Italian ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an Italian carabineri police officer, and their Congolese driver were killed in a shooting on Monday while travelling in the DRC in a UN convoy, the Italian Foreign Ministry said.
In a brief statement, the ministry said Luca Attanasio and the officer, named as Vittorio Iacovacci, were killed in Goma.
The ambush occurred as the convoy was travelling from Goma, Congo's eastern regional capital, to visit a World Food Program (WFP) school project in Rutshuru, the UN agency said.
The WFP said the attack occurred on a road that had been cleared previously for travel without security escorts, and it was seeking more information from local officials on the attack.
The DRC's interior ministry accused Rwandan Hutu rebel group the FDLR of being behind the attack. In a statement it added that four people had been kidnapped, of whom one had since been found.
It is the same area, known as the “three antennas,” where two Britons were kidnapped by unidentified armed men in 2018, said Mambo Kaway, president of a local civil society group in the Nyrangongo territory.
“There were five people aboard the vehicle, including the Italian ambassador,” Kaway said. “The driver died after being shot with several bullets, and others were wounded,” he said.
“The situation is very tense," he added.
The wounded were taken to a nearby UN hospital.
Italy condemns 'treacherous act of violence'
Attanasio, a 43-year-old career diplomat, left behind a wife and three young children.
Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella, said in a statement: "I received with dismay the news of the cowardly attack that struck an international convoy near the city of Goma a few hours ago, killing Ambassador Luca Attanasio, carabiniere Vittorio Iacovacci and their driver.
"The Italian Republic is in mourning for these servants of the state who lost their lives in the fulfillment of their professional duties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
"In deploring this treacherous act of violence, the Italians all gather in condolences around the families of the victims, to whom I wish to send the deepest condolences and the greatest solidarity."
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell informed the bloc’s foreign ministers of the incident at a meeting he is chairing in Brussels and presented his condolences to Italy and the United Nations.
“The news (is) extremely worrying, and we are following the situation closely with the EU delegation" in Congo, EU Commission spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said. She provided no details about those killed or injured.
Congo’s east is home to myriad rebel groups all vying for control of the mineral-rich land.
More than 2,000 civilians were killed last year in eastern Congo in violence by armed groups whose brutal attacks using machetes and heavy weapons have also displaced millions in what the United Nations calls one of the worst humanitarian crises as attacks ramp up this year.
There are 5.2 million people displaced in the Central African nation, according to the United Nations Children’s Agency, which said in a report Friday that this represents more displaced than in any other country except Syria. In the past year alone, 50% have been displaced, it said.