DRC: Gunmen kill six Virunga National Park rangers

Attack blamed on local fighters is the latest to hit large park renowned for its mountain gorillas.

Gunmen have killed at least six rangers in Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the restive east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to authorities.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack on Sunday morning but officials blamed Mai-Mai fighters, members of one of the dozens of armed militias battling for control of the DRC’s mineral-rich eastern borderlands.

“Mai-Mai [fighters] carried out an ambush at Nyamitwitwi. The provisional toll is six park rangers killed along with two Mai-Mai,” local government delegate Alphonse Kambale told AFP news agency.

The Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature, in a statement on Twitter, confirmed the death toll in the attack, which took place at 9:30am in the area between Nyamitwitwi and Nyamilma, in Kabuhendo in the park’s central sector.

It added that one ranger was wounded in the attack.

Provincial legislator Elie Nzaghani also confirmed the tally.

Covering some 7,800 square kilometres (3,000 square miles), Virunga is home to about a quarter of the world’s population of critically endangered mountain gorillas.

The park, which was inaugurated in 1925, has been caught up in the persistent unrest that has been plaguing eastern DRC, witnessing repeated attacks by rebel groups, militias and poachers.

Nearly 700 armed rangers work in Virunga where reports say at least 200 have paid with their lives in attacks going back more than 10 years.

In April 2020, an ambush near the park killed 12 rangers and five civilians and critically injured several others.

Read the full article at: aljazeera.com