A group of armed men killed six rangers, and a seventh was seriously injured, at a national park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Virunga National Park is home to the last of the endangered mountain gorillas. Rangers were attacked by a group of gunmen but it is unclear why, and no one has taken responsibility for the action.
The rangers were between the ages of 25 and 30 when they were attacked and killed at 7.30 am on Sunday.
A press statement from the Virunga National Park discussed the loss of the rangers:
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 rangers who have lost their lives have been identified as BURHANI ABDOU Surumwe (30 years old), KAMATE MUNDUNAENDA Alexis (25), MANENO KATAGHALIRWA Reagan (27), KIBANJA BASHEKERE Eric (28), PALUKU BUDOYI Innocent (28) and NZABONIMPA NTAMAKIRIRO Prince (27).
While there are suspects for the attack, there still needs to be an investigation into what might have happened. Finding the attackers will be a difficult task, as several armed groups reside close to the park. Among them are the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, who are one of the last factions of Rwandan rebels active in the Congo.
The Virunga National Park concluded its statement by restating its purpose and giving its condolences to the friends and families of those who were harmed:
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.
Officials say that more than 200 rangers have died since the park became officially recognised in 1925, including 12 people last April. The staff at the park are currently facing increased issues and danger because of the Congo Civil War as well as poaching.
With this in mind, many will hope that the violence stops soon and the animals in the park remain protected.
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Parc National Des Virunga
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