Go­rilla park tourists kid­napped in Congo

Two Bri­tons taken with driver as ranger is killed

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - NEWS - By Gor­don Black­stock gblackstock@sundaypost.com

Two Bri­tish cit­i­zens have been kid­napped in th e Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo.

The pair are un­der­stood to have been taken while vis­it­ing the Virunga Na­tional Park, a renowned go­rilla sanc­tu­ary in the east of the African coun­try, on Fri­day.

Fe­male park ranger Rachel Ka­tumwa, who was trav­el­ling with the pair, was killed, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal me­dia re­ports.

The park has seen ris­ing vi­o­lence in re­cent months as armed groups stage raids to steal re­sources, par­tic­u­larly char­coal.

The Brits were said to be taken along with their Con­golese driver.

Park di­rec­tor Em­manuel de Merode said: “I con­firm that our ve­hi­cle was at­tacked. Three peo­ple were kid­napped, in­clud­ing two tourists.”

The kid­nap­ping took place in a mil­i­tary area and the na­tional army is be­lieved to be re­spond­ing to the sit­u­a­tion.

There have been a num­ber of killings and kid­nap­pings in re­cent years.

Last month five young rangers and a driver were killed in a mili­tia am­bush, the park said.

It was the dead­li­est at­tack in re­cent years and took the to­tal num­ber of rangers killed to 175.

Virunga is a Unesco world her­itage site, cov­er­ing 3,000 square miles on the Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo’s bor­der with Uganda and Rwanda.

The park is pro­tected by around 800 rangers but there are es­ti­mated to be be­tween 1,500 and 2,000 mili­tia in and around the area.

Founded in 1925, it is home to around a quar­ter of the world’s crit­i­cally en­dan­gered moun­tain go­ril­las and other en­dan­gered species as well as lions, ele­phants and hip­pos.

Last year, a fifth of the park’s south­ern sec­tor was de­for­ested ow­ing to il­le­gal char­coal pro­duc­tion, the park said.

The For­eign and Com­mon­wealth Of­fice ad­vises against all but es­sen­tial travel in parts of the coun­try.

The ad­vice – up­dated three days ago – said tourists are vul­ner­a­ble if trav­el­ling with­out es­corted trans­port in the eastern part of the coun­try, and the “risk of kid­nap or in­jury as a re­sult of armed or crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity re­mains high”.

It said that UK Gov­ern­ment staff were not al­ways in the area and the Bri­tish em­bassy’s abil­ity to of­fer con­sular as­sis­tance could be “se­verely limited”.

A For­eign Of­fice spokesman said: “We are in close con­tact with the au­thor­i­ties in Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of the Congo fol­low­ing an in­ci­dent in­volv­ing two Bri­tish na­tion­als, and our staff are pro­vid­ing sup­port to their fam­i­lies.”

Virunga Na­tional Park ranger Rachel Ka­tumwa died in the at­tack

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