The attack blamed on local fighters is the latest to hit a large park known for its mountain gorillas.
Gunmen killed six rangers in Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the troubled eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), authorities said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Sunday morning’s attack, but officials blamed Mayi-Mayi fighters, members of one of dozens of armed militias fighting for control of wealthy eastern border areas. in minerals from the DRC.
“Preliminary investigations indicate that the Rangers were taken by surprise and did not have the opportunity to defend themselves, and that those responsible for the attack are local Mayi-Mayi groups,” park authorities said in a statement. communicated.
“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 surrounding communities from the tyranny of armed groups. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten or in vain.
Statement from Virunga National Park following the deadly attack on Park Rangers today: https://t.co/P30dSCmLqJ
– Virunga National Park (@gorillacd) January 10, 2021
A ranger seriously injured in the attack was evacuated to Goma city hospital and his injuries were no longer considered life-threatening, the statement added.
The Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature said the attack took place in the area between Nyamitwitwi and Nyamilma, near Kabuendo, which is located in the central sector of the park.
Covering some 7,800 square kilometers (3,000 square miles), the Virunga are home to about a quarter of the world’s critically endangered mountain gorilla population.
We are sad to announce the death of 6 guards, which occurred on 01/11/2021 at 9:30 a.m. following an attack perpetrated by an armed group in the space between Nyamitwitwi and Nyamilima, in Kabuhendo in the Center sector of the Virunga Park. We also deplore an injured person. pic.twitter.com/q3CvyK88Hy
– ICCN (@IccnRdc) January 10, 2021
The park, which was inaugurated in 1925, has been caught in the continuing unrest in eastern DRC, witnessing repeated attacks by rebel groups, militias and poachers.
Nearly 700 armed guards work in Virunga, where reports say at least 200 have paid with their lives for attacks dating back more than 10 years.
In April 2020, an ambush near the park killed 12 rangers and five civilians and seriously injured several others.