An armed group kills six guards of Virunga Park, the sanctuary of the last gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Steph Deschamps / January 11, 2021

 

At least six eco-guards were killed Sunday in an attack by gunmen in Virunga National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the park and local officials said.

 

Six park rangers died today at 9:30 am following an attack by an armed group in the space between Nyamitwitwi and Nyamilima (center of the park), said in an email message to AFP Olivier Mukisya, communication officer of the Virunga Park. A park warden was also seriously injured, he added. A local administrative official said the rangers had been attacked by Mai Mai militiamen

 

The Mayi-Mayi ambushed the eco-guards in the far end of the park, towards Nyamitwitwi. The provisional toll is six park rangers killed and two Mayi-Mayi fell in these clashes, said Alphonse Kambale, the governor's delegate official in the Nyamilima groupement. This assessment was confirmed to AFP by the provincial deputy Elie Nzaghani, an elected representative of the Rutshuru region, where the village of Nyamitwitwi is located.

 

Guards are regularly attacked by armed men in this mountain gorilla sanctuary.

 

Mayi-Mayi is an umbrella term for community-based militias whose actions range from defending the interests of a group to serious criminality

 

Created in 1925, the Virunga National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This reserve extends over 7,769 km2, among the landscapes with the tormented history of the province of North Kivu, from Goma to the territory of Beni, between mountains and forests. 

 

At the foot of the Nyiragongo volcano, the protected area is the refuge of the mountain gorillas

 

A natural, tourist and threatened jewel, Virunga is also the theater of confits in the troubled region of North Kivu, where armed groups are vying for control of the riches of the soil and subsoil.

 

The park is guarded by 689 armed rangers, at least 200 of whom have been killed in the line of duty, in the recent history of the park, created in 1925, according to its officials.

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