Italian ambassador was killed in shooting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, not in execution, prosecutor says


Italian ambassador Luca Attanasio and the Italian carabiniere, or paramilitary policeman, Vittorio Iacovacci, were killed on Monday after their car was attacked while traveling in a UN convoy in the eastern part of the Central African country. A third man, the Congolese driver Moustapha Milambo, also died.

The bodies of the two Italians arrived at Rome’s Ciampino airport during the night from Tuesday to Wednesday and were received by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Wednesday that the country had sent a team to the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to investigate the incident.

“At the moment, all the facts are unclear,” Pioletti said. “We are still examining, we are facing an area where there are different armed groups, different ethnic groups, so we cannot attribute this attack to one of these groups, it is still very early.

“What we know for sure is that it was not an execution, it was a shooting, the ambassador and the carabiniere were hit by two bullets each,” Pioletti added after the autopsies of the two men were completed on Wednesday.

The World Food Program (WFP) said in a statement that Milambo was also killed in the attack. Four other WFP staff members who were in the group are safe and accounted for, according to the UN agency.
United Nations peacekeepers remove bodies from the attack area in North Kivu province on Monday.

An armed group stopped the convoy and forced the passengers to disembark in the face of an exchange of gunfire, the WFP said.

Iacovacci died after a bullet struck him near his heart, while Attanasio was shot twice in the abdomen, Pioletti said. Attanasio died on the way to the hospital, which was 50 minutes away.

It is not yet clear whether the bullets that killed the Italians were fired by the attackers or by the government military defending them, Pioletti added.

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The route was on a road previously designated as safe to travel without safety equipment, according to the PMA.

Rutshuru is just over two hours’ drive from Goma. The road out of the regional capital has been unsafe for years with a variety of armed groups operating in the area.

There is a strong UN peacekeeping presence in the region, and UN convoys need security clearance to travel outside of Goma.

With the identity of the attackers still unknown, the motive for the attack is uncertain. A political motive was not completely ruled out, Pioletti said, but added that a kidnapping was more likely.

CNN’s David McKenzie, Nicola Ruotolo, and Ingrid Formanek contributed to this report.

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