BENI, Congo (AP) — An ambush near the renowned Virunga Park in eastern Congo has killed 12 rangers who helped guard some of the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas in the wild, and another five people, authorities said Friday.
The attack, which left five other rangers in critical condition, took place near the park’s headquarters in Rumangabo, located in Rutsuru territory, according to Joel Wengamulay, a spokesman with the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature. A driver and four civilians also died, he added.
“Investigations are underway to find the killers who attacked our convoy,” he told The Associated Press. “We have started calling the families of the victims of this ambush to inform them.”
Daniel Maniragua, deputy administrator of the Rutsuru territory, condemned the attack and pointed the finger at the FDLR rebels. The fighters, who have been active in the area for more than 25 years, are among the armed groups competing for control of the region’s vast natural resources.
“I think that these rebels did not ambush just the rangers but attacked civilians on this road to Rumangabo,” he said. “We call on the central government to strengthen the military presence in the area to eradicate these negative groups that are swarming in the region.”