A group of gunmen have killed seven rangers and seriously injured a seventh at the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
As per reports, the park is home to the last of the endangered mountain gorillas. The rangers are said to have been set upon by a group of armed men, though no one has taken responsibility for the killings and a motive yet remains unclear.
The six rangers – all between the ages of 25 and 30 – were ambushed and fired upon at 7:30 am on Sunday.
The Virunga National Park confirmed the tragic news in the following press statement:
“Preliminary investigations indicate that the rangers were taken by surprise and had no opportunity to defend themselves, and that those responsible for the attack are local Mai-Mai groups.
Virunga National Park deeply regrets the tragic loss of life among its rangers, who work tirelessly and with dedication to protect both the park and the neighbouring communities from the tyranny of armed groups. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten nor be in vain.
All efforts will be undertaken to bring the perpetrators to justice and sustain the rule of law within the park.”
The men who lost their lives have since been identified as Burhani Abdou Surumwe (30), Kamate Mundunaenda Alexis (25), Maneno Kataghalirwa Reagan (27), Kibanka Bashekere Eric (28), Paluku Budoyi Innocent (28) and Nzabonimpa Ntamakiriro Prince (27).
An investigation is now being launched into the killings, though sources say finding the culprits will be a difficult task. Several armed groups reside close to the park, including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, one of the surviving rebel factions in the Congo.
Officials at Virunga National Park told how more than 200 rangers have died since the park’s official founding in 1925. Poaching and the Congo Civil War have made the jobs of staff working there increasingly perilous.
The Park finished its statement by saying:
“Virunga National Park remains committed to delivering development initiatives that benefit local people and the wider region, and to working in partnership with local communities to bring peace and prosperity to many millions of people whose lives have for too long been blighted by conflict and the activities of armed groups.
The thoughts and prayers of everyone at Virunga National Park are with the families and friends of all the victims, as well as the injured Ranger.“
My heart goes out to these brave men gunned down in the line of duty. Rest in peace!
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