At least six rangers have been killed by gunmen in DR Congo’s Virunga national park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, famous for its mountain gorillas.
The Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature said the attack took place in the area between Nyamitwitwi and Nyamilma, near Kabuendo, which is located in the park’s central sector.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack on Sunday morning but officials blamed Mai-Mai fighters, one of the armed militias battling for control of the DRC’s mineral-rich eastern borderlands.
“Preliminary investigations indicate that the Rangers were taken by surprise and had no opportunity to defend themselves, and that those responsible for the attack are local Mai-Mai groups,” park authorities said in a statement.
“Virunga National Park deeply regrets the tragic loss of life among its Rangers, who work tirelessly and with dedication to protect both the Park and the neighbouring communities from the tyranny of armed groups. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten nor be in vain.”
A ranger who was seriously wounded in the attack was evacuated to hospital in the city of Goma and his injuries were no longer considered life-threatening, the statement added.