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Italy investigates UN officer over death of diplomat in DR Congo

The Guardian logo The Guardian 4 days ago Lorenzo Tondo in Palermo
a group of people wearing costumes: Photograph: Yara Nardi/Reuters © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Yara Nardi/Reuters

Italian prosecutors have placed a UN officer under investigation in relation to the murder of Italy’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who was killed in February along with two other people in an attack in the restive east of the central African country.

a group of people wearing military uniforms: Carabinieri officers at the funeral of the Italian ambassador Luca Attanasio and the soldier Vittorio Iacovacci in Rome on 25 February. © Photograph: Yara Nardi/Reuters Carabinieri officers at the funeral of the Italian ambassador Luca Attanasio and the soldier Vittorio Iacovacci in Rome on 25 February.

Magistrates in Rome are investigating the role of a UN World Food Programme (WFP) officer in the DRC, whose name has not been disclosed, who is accused of allegedly omitting to take all the necessary security to ensure against a potential attack.

Prosecutors in Rome recently questioned five WFP officials about the attack, in which the Italian ambassador, Luca Attanasio, the Italian soldier Vittorio Iacovacci and a driver lost their lives after a gunfight between a group of assailants and Congolese park rangers broke out. The ambush took place at about 10.30am local time (0830 GMT), during an attempted kidnapping near the town of Kanyamahoro, about 10 miles north of the regional capital, Goma.

a man wearing a suit and tie looking at the camera: Luca Attanasio was killed in a gunfight between attackers and Congolese park rangers. Photograph: Italian foreign ministry/Reuters © Provided by The Guardian Luca Attanasio was killed in a gunfight between attackers and Congolese park rangers. Photograph: Italian foreign ministry/Reuters

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At the end of the questioning, one of them, an officer responsible for the security of the expedition, was placed under investigation.

According to the prosecutors, the company official did not take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of the convoy.

A few days after the attack, Italy’s foreign ministry announced that a team from the carabinieri’s special operations group had been sent to the DRC to gather evidence for the Rome prosecutors’ investigation into the case.

In an interview with Corriere della Sera, Attanasio’s widow, Zakia Seddiki, raised doubts about the security of the convoy. Attanasio had been invited that day by WFP to visit a humanitarian project at a nearby school.

“They did not do what they should have when crossing a high-risk area,” Seddiki told Corriere.

Dozens of armed groups operate in and around Virunga, which lies along the DRC’s borders with Rwanda and Uganda. Park rangers have been repeatedly attacked, as local security forces are underresourced, poorly trained and corrupt.

Attanasio joined the Italian diplomatic service in 2003 and had previously served in Switzerland, Morocco and Nigeria. He is the second European ambassador to have been killed while serving in the DRC.

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