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Italian ambassador to DR Congo killed in North Kivu. An Ambush (v4)

(B2) The Italian ambassador in Kinshasa, Luca Attanasio, was mortally wounded this Monday (22.02) in an armed attack. He was visiting eastern Congo with a convoy from the World Food Program

Luca Attanasio (credit: Farnesina)

The attack occurred on National Road 2, in Kanyamahoro in Nyiragongo territory (North Kivu), near the place called "3 antennas", more or less 15 km from Goma and 3 km from Kibumba, in the Eastern DR Congo. In an area that was not considered very dangerous. Two other people — the driver Mustapha Milambo and a carabinieri from the escort Vittorio Iacovacci — also died.

NB: the Italian ambassador was on his way to visit a WFP project, supported by Italy, for the distribution of food and a school canteen.

An attempted hostage-taking

The attackers" 6 in number and equipped with 5 AK47 type weapons as well as a machete fired in the air, before forcing the occupants of the vehicles to descend and follow them in the depths of the Park according to the governor of North Kivu quoted by Okapi Radio. They started by shooting one of the drivers to show their determination. The Virunga park eco-guards and the nearby Congolese FARDC soldiers have begun to approach each other. The kidnappers then fired point-blank at the carabinieri, who died on the spot, and at the ambassador, mortally wounding him in the abdomen.

Mortal wound

The ambassador died on arrival at the MONUSCO hospital in Goma. " Everything was done to save him, in particular by mobilizing surgeons from the ICRC (the International Committee of the Red Cross) a diplomat told B2. But nothing worked. Aged 43, Luca Attanasio leaves behind a wife and three young children.

Circumstances to be clarified

« Two servants of the state were violently snatched from us in the performance of their duty confirmed Italian Minister Luigi di Maio (who is currently attending the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels). " The circumstances of this brutal attack are still unclear and no effort will be spared to shed light on what happened. » indicates the communicated of the Farnesina.

A rebel group: FDLR?

The attack is attributed according to the italian press to the FDR, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, active in the region. No vehicle of the blue helmets of MONUSCO escorted the convoy, on a road considered, beforehand, like no problem.

A valued diplomat

« I mourn the death of Luca, killed in an ambush near Goma. I am losing a generous colleague and friend. During my mandate in DR Congo, he supported me at all times, also in the most difficult moments “said Bart Ouvry, via tweeter, who rubbed shoulders with him for several years, when he was EU ambassador to DR Congo (now EU ambassador to Mali).

One of the youngest in the Italian diplomatic network

« Active and dynamic, courteous and always attentive, Luca was one of the youngest ambassadors of the Italian diplomatic network. [He] had with his wife Zakia a particular attachment to the DRC which had led them to develop charitable activities in favor of the orphans of Kinshasa clarified the current EU ambassador Jean-Marc Chataigner, who was not in the convoy (contrary to what has sometimes been said in the Italian and African press). I lose " a friend " he added. " Those who killed Luca, Vittorio and Mustapha today will have to answer for their actions before the courts, just like those who continue to commit crimes against the civilian population in eastern Congo every day..

An Africanist who passed through Morocco and Nigeria

A graduate of the renowned Luigi Bocconi Commercial University in Milan (2001), Luca began his professional career in business consulting before entering a diplomatic career in 2003. First assigned to the Economic Affairs Department, then to the Secretariat of the General Directorate for Africa, he was then Deputy Chief of Staff to the Under-Secretary of State for Africa and International Cooperation (2004 - in the Berlusconi II government).

Abroad, he was Head of the Economic and Commercial Office of the Italian Embassy in Bern (Switzerland) (2006-2010); then Consul General in Casablanca (Morocco) (2010-2013). After returning to Farnesina as Head of the Secretariat of the Directorate General for Globalization and World Affairs (2013-2015), he returned to Africa first as First Counselor at the Italian Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria ( 2015 to 2017), then in Kinshasa, since September 2017, first as head of mission then ambassador.

A rare case

It is quite rare for European or Member State diplomats to be violently killed in the line of duty. The last ones (which are in our database 'memoriam') had been killed in Mali during the attack on Camp in June 2017 or the attack of a restaurant in Bamako in March 2015. This illustrates that the situation in eastern Congo, which has gone under the radar of the news, is not appeased. Far from it... The circumstances will however have to be clarified because it seems that it was the ambassador's car that was deliberately targeted.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Updated paper: (20 p.m.) with details on the EU ambassador (23:30 p.m.) - the circumstances of the attack and the attackers - the commentary of the EU ambassador.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).