May 11, 2018
Pair were among group of people taken hostage while visiting renowned gorilla sanctuary the Virunga national park
Two Britons kidnapped in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
British citizens were among a group of people taken hostage on Friday in the Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a spokesman for the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN) has said.
Two Britons were reported to have been taken while visiting the park, a renowned gorilla sanctuary in the east of the African country.
The full circumstances surrounding the kidnapping are not yet clear, but a park source told the news agency AFP that a convoy was attacked and some tourists were kidnapped. The source did not specify the nationality of those abducted, but said their guard was seriously injured.
“For the moment the [ICCN] cannot communicate much about the incident because the hostages are still in captivity. That would put their lives in danger,” Joel Wenga, the ICCN’s head of communications in North Kivu province told Reuters.
“I confirm an attack on our convoy,” said Joel Wengamulay, a park spokesman.
According to local media, a female ranger was killed in the incident.
The UK Foreign Office said in a statement: “We are in close contact with the authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo following an incident involving two British nationals, and our staff are providing support to their families.”
Local sources said the kidnapping appears to have taken place north of Goma. The road to the park from the city is popular with tourists, who usually restrict their movements to the road, the flanks of the Nyiragongo volcano, or the hills populated by mountain gorillas close to the Rwandan border.
Rising violence in recent months across the province of North Kivu has been linked by some to broader political instability in the DRC.
Virunga has experienced waves of violence and crime linked to local unrest. There have been increasingly intense clashes between local militia known as Mai-Mai, armed groups and security forces including police, army soldiers and the park’s 700 guards.
A number of kidnappings have taken place in the park in the past six weeks. Mai-Mai militia were blamed for an attack last month in which six guards were killed.
Virunga is a Unesco world heritage site and one of the most important conservation areas in the world, covering 7,800 sq km (3,011 sq miles) along the DRC’s eastern border with Uganda and Rwanda.
Established in 1925, it is home to about a quarter of the world’s population of critically endangered mountain gorillas, as well as to eastern lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, okapis, lions, elephants and hippos. Poaching is a major threat.
The Foreign Office has issued warnings not to travel to large parts of the DRC.
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