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Two Britons kidnapped in Congo gorilla sanctuary

May 12, 2018

Two British tourists have been kidnapped and a park ranger has been killed in an ambush at a popular national park. There have been a series of attacks in the critical wildlife sanctuary.

Kongo Virunga Nationalpark
Image: DW/A. Walsh

Two British tourist were abducted and one wildlife park guard was killed in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a park spokesman said on Friday.

The region has been hit by increasing violence, particularly against national park staff. 

Read more: The battle to save Africa's endangered mountain gorillas

Virunga National park in Congo
The road into the national park has become increasingly dangerousImage: DW/A. Walsh

What we know so far

  • Two British tourists were abducted, one wildlife park ranger was killed.
  • The vehicle they were traveling in was ambushed.
  • The attackers remain unidentified.
  • Congolese armed forces have launched a search for the kidnappers.
Virunga National Park
The park is one of the few tourist sites in the war-ravaged countryImage: DW/A. Walsh

Investigations begin

The British Foreign Office said it was in contact with Congolese authorities

Joel Wengamulay, a spokesman for the Congolese Institute for The Conservation of Nature, told the United Nations-backed Radio Okapi that investigations into the attack have begun.

"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," he later told Reuters.
Read more: Virunga park rangers in DRC killed in ambush

Nyiragongo Volcano lake  in Congo's Virunga Nationalpark
Tourists head to Virunga not only to see gorillas, but also the lava lake of Nyiragongo Volcano.Image: DW/A. Walsh

Increasing violence and other threats: Attackers have killed more than 175 people over the past two decades, including five people last week. The British Foreign Office has "advised against all but essential travel" to the province where Virunga park is located. The park has also been used as a sanctuary by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda. But violence is not the only threat. British oil company SOCO wants to explore for oil in the park and trees are being cut down at an alarming rate to make charcoal.

Read more: Africa's road to environmental destruction

A critical sanctuary: Virunga park covers 7,800 square kilometers (3,000 sq mi) from the Virunga Mountains in the south, to the Rwenzori Mountains in the north of Eastern Congo. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site containing more mammal, reptile and bird species than any protected area on the continent of Africa. Rangers constantly face threats from poachers, bandits and armed militia. It is estimated that more than 3,000 tourists a year visit the southern sector of Virunga National Park to admire the gorillas as well as the lava lake of the Nyiragongo Volcano.

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av/aw (Reuters, DPA, AP)