An ambassador in Italy and his bodyguard killed in Congo

    The Italians on Tuesday mourned the demise of Luca Attanasio, the Italian ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who was killed in an ambush along with his bodyguard and his driver while participating in a human convoy with the World Food Program.

    The national media paid tribute to the 43-year-old Mr. Attanasio, who was lauded as the young and human face of Italian diplomacy, and with a detailed account of his final hours before his death on Monday.

    The assassination of Mr. Attanasio struck a deep nerve in Italy, which had been under stress for the past year due to the deadly coronavirus epidemic and a political crisis that caused unrest and uncertainty for weeks. Following the brutal killing of Giulio Regeni, a graduate student in Egypt in 2016, many Italians remain sensitive to the fate of their citizens abroad.

    Mr. Pictures of Atanasio smiling and posing with Congolese children or posing with his wife and three young daughters dominated the first pages of Italian dailies and their websites.

    Luca and Vittorio. Italy’s Best, ”reads the headline of the Turin-based daily La Stampa, referring to Vittorio Iacovachis, a 30-year-old Italian military police officer who was killed along with Ambassador and his Congo driver, Mustafa Milambo of the World Food Program.

    “His Africa,” read the headline on the front page of the left-leaning daily Il Manifesto, showing a selfie taken by the ambassador, with his right hand thumb to two Congolese children.

    “Yesterday I could not convey to my family the deep sorrow of the entire Foreign Ministry and our sincerity,” Ministry Secretary General Elisabetta Belloni wrote in an editorial in the daily Corrie dere Serra. “Because silence and emotion prevail.”

    “Luca was a generous person who wanted to do well,” Ms Belloni said. “He Italy – along with the European Union and the United Nations – is believed to be instrumental in promoting development and peace. He devoted himself to this goal with humility, but with total commitment and readiness. “

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    Credit …Gregorio Borgia / Associated Press

    Pope Francis on Tuesday expressed condolences to the victims’ families, the diplomatic corps and the military police “for the disappearance of these servants of peace and law”.

    Prosecutors in Rome began an investigation into the accident, sending a team of investigators to Goma, the capital of North Kivu, where the murders took place. The President and highest ranking officials of the Democratic Republic of Congo resolved to get to the bottom of the tragedy, which took place in an area near the border with Rwanda known for violence.

    Dozens of armed groups compete in kidnappings and violent acts in the region, including rebels from the Democratic Forces for the liberation of Rwanda, Congo’s largest foreign armed group. The rebel group on Tuesday denied any involvement in the attack, saying their people were away from the area.

    On Tuesday, the President of the Congo, Felix Tsekikedi and his wife, called on Mr. Attanasio’s wife met Zakia Sediki, the chairperson of a non-governmental organization in the Congo that helps women and children in need.

    In a statement read on national TV, Mr. Tsysekedi said that the government had sent a team of investigators to Goma to shed light on these heinous crimes as soon as possible.

    It was unclear whether Mr Atanasio and his bodyguard were shot as part of an attempted kidnapping, or armed group, and were killed during an exchange of bullets between Park Rangers and a Congolese Army unit Was it or not.

    Mr. Attanasio went north to Rutshuru to visit the World Food Program project to feed schoolchildren, in a two-car convoy, partially funded by the Italian government. The World Food Program stated that the road they had previously taken was cleared for travel without security escorts.

    The night before the attack, Mr. Attanasio and Mr. Iacovias dined with a small group of Italian immigrants in Goma.

    “He He said that he accepted our work on the way forward and we are proud to be here, “Mirayam Rusia, Italian head of programs for the aid group AVSI in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who attended the dinner, Mr. Atanasio said.

    “It is devastating to know that he is gone,” Ms. Rusico said.

    Mr. near Milan. In Attanasio’s hometown, Limbriet, Mayor Antonio Romeo said he would name the city’s upcoming cultural center after the ambassador.

    “He The province was proud of its hometown, and loved simple things, ”Mr. Romeo said. “We will miss him dearly.”

    A military plane will bring the bodies of two Italians to Rome, where a medical team will conduct an autopsy to try to determine the cause of their deaths.

    “We are devastated, it is an unqualified loss,” said Salvatore Atanasio, the ambassador’s father, in a video interview published by the Italian news agency Ansa. “These are unjust things that should never happen.”

    Steve Wemby contributed reporting from Kinshasa.

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