Italy’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Luca Attanasio, was killed in a brutal attack by gunmen on Monday the foreign ministry said.
Attanasio was reportedly travelling with a UN convoy in Goma in the east of the country, when the attack happened.
“It is with deep sadness that the Foreign Ministry confirms the death, today in Goma, of the Italian ambassador,” the ministry said, adding that an Italian policeman also died. The 30-year-old military police officer Vittorio Iacovacci had been serving at the embassy since last September, and their Congolese driver, whose name has not yet been officially released was also killed during the attack.
In a separate statement, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio expressed his “great dismay and immense sorrow” and broke off from a meeting in Brussels with EU counterparts to make an early return to Rome.
The attack is believed to have been an attempted kidnapping, according to officials at the nearby Virunga National Park.
It happened at around 10:15 local time (08:15 GMT) near the town of Kanyamahoro, just north of Goma, the officials told Reuters news agency.
It is not clear who was behind the attack, but many armed groups are known to operate in and around the park.
It has been reported that Attanasio was travelling from Goma to visit a “schools programme” in the village of Rutshuru in eastern DR Congo, the Rome-based WFP said in a statement.
“The attack… occurred on a road that had previously been cleared for travel without security escorts,” it added.
The DRC army has since deployed troops to help search the area.
According to media reports, Attanasio (43 years), had been representing Italy in Kinshasa since 2017. He joined the diplomatic service in 2003 and served previously in Switzerland, Morocco and Nigeria.