US journalist, DRC rangers disappear after militia attack

2017-07-15 18:07
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Kinshasa - An American journalist and at least nine Congolese security guards have disappeared after militia members attacked a security station in a nature reserve in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo, a local official said Saturday.

Mambasa territory administrator Alfred Bongwalanga Efoloko confirmed an attack Friday by the Mai Mai militia outside the town of Mambasa in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, but added authorities do not yet have proof this was an abduction. No details about the missing journalists were immediately available.

"The forest is very big. Maybe they fled in another direction. According to testimony of their colleagues, the attack came as the team wanted to go have a meal" and there was a lot of cross-fire, Efoloko told The Associated Press by telephone.

Two British journalists and five other park rangers, part of the same team, escaped after the attack, making their way to another Okapi reserve base, he said.

Army reinforcements have been deployed since Friday night to search for those missing, he said.

Efoloko said he could not identify who was among the disappeared, adding that the journalists "did not come through the territorial office nor through local immigration."

The park rangers are part of the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation.

The Centre for Studies of Peace and Defense of Human Rights said earlier Saturday that a journalist had disappeared with 11 park security guards. It also identified Friday's attackers as the Mai-Mai SIMBA, saying they attacked in Bapela, 40km south of Mambasa. The group's executive director, Omar Kavota, expressed concern for the missing team.

A Congolese civilian was also kidnapped Friday near Mambasa by armed men, he said in a statement.

Kidnappings for ransom are common in eastern DRC.

A separate attack on Saturday by the Mai-Mai in the country's North Kivu province killed two soldiers.

Read more on:    drc  |  us  |  central africa

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