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Bodies found of missing UN officials in DR Congo

March 28, 2017

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo has confirmed that two kidnapped UN experts have been killed. One of the victims had been decapitated.

Kongo Kananga Tshimbulu MONUSCO
Image: Reuters/A. Ross

A government spokesman in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) confirmed on Tuesday that the bodies belonged to a pair of UN officials who had gone missing in the Kasai Central province earlier in March.

Michael Sharp, a US citizen, and Zaida Catalan, a Swedish citizen, had "fallen into the hands of negative forces" near the village of Ngome. Four Congolese nationals were also abducted with the pair.

"The provincial police commissioner has just returned from the area where the bodies of two UN researchers were found," the spokesman told AFP news agency. Authorities confirmed that the woman had been decapitated.

Sharp's father responded to the news on Facebook. "We have been informed that two Caucasian bodies have been found in shallows graves in the area...Since no other Caucasians have been reported missing in that region, there is a high probability that these are the bodies of MJ and Zaida," John Sharp wrote.

Karte Demokratische Republik Kongo Ngome Englisch
Image: DW

Bloodshed continues

Officials did not say who was behind the killing, but the region where Sharp and Catalan were abducted has been plagued by violence since mid-August of last year, after a tribal chief and militia leader was killed by government forces after rebelling against President Joseph Kabila.

More than 400 people have been killed and 200,000 displaced since then, according to the UN. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, also confirmed early in March that mass graves had been discovered in the area.

Around the same time, a Uruguayan peacekeeper was shot and injured in the region.

The UN currently has 19,000 soldiers, police and military observers stationed in the DRC - the largest and most expensive peacekeeping mission in the world. Around 100 troops have been dispatched to the Kasai province.

blc/jm (AFP, Reuters)