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Italian ambassador killed in gun battle in DRC, not executed, prosecutor says



Italian Ambassador Luca Athanasio and Italian Carabinieri, or paramilitary policeman Vittorio Iacovaci, died Monday after their car was attacked while traveling in a UN convoy in the eastern part of the Central African country. A third man, Congolese driver Mustafa Milambo, was also killed.

The bodies of the two Italians arrived at Rome’s Ciampino airport on Tuesday night and were greeted by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Mayo said on Wednesday that the country had sent a team to the eastern part of the DRC to investigate the incident.

“At the moment, not all the facts are clear,”

; Pioletti said. “We are still checking, we are dealing with an area where there are different armed groups, different ethnic groups, so we cannot attribute this attack to one of these groups, it is still too early.

“What we know for sure is that this is not an execution, it was a gunfight, the ambassador and the carabinieri were hit by two bullets each,” Pioletti added after autopsies of the two men, which ended on Wednesday.

The World Food Program (WFP) said in a statement that Milambo had also died in the attack. Four other WFP staff members who were in the group are safe and accountable, according to the UN agency.
UN peacekeepers removed bodies from the area of ​​the attack in North Kivu province on Monday

An armed group stopped the convoy and forced the passengers to disembark before exchanging weapons, the MPP said.

Jacobici died after a bullet hit him near his heart while Athanasio was shot twice in the abdomen, Pioletti said. Athanasio died on the way to the hospital, which was 50 minutes away.

It is not yet clear whether the bullets that killed the Italians were fired by the attackers or the government military defending them, Pioletti added.

Dozens killed, some beheaded, suspected of attacking rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The route was on a road previously defined as safe for travel without a security team, according to the WFP.

Rutshuru is just over a two-hour drive from Goma. The road to the regional capital has been unsafe for years with various armed groups operating in the area.

There is an enhanced UN peacekeeping presence in the region, and UN convoys need a security clearance to travel outside Goma.

As the identity of the attackers is still unknown, the motive for the attack is uncertain. A political motive has not been completely ruled out, Pioletti said, but added that abduction was more likely.

David Mackenzie, Nicola Ruotolo and CNN’s Ingrid Formanek contributed to this report.


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