The Virunga National Park in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo suffered a heartbreaking blow when six park rangers were killed by armed assailants on Sunday, January 10. Another ranger was seriously wounded in the assault, according to a statement by the park.
At approximately 7.30am local time, the rangers were ambushed while on foot patrol inside the Park. The attack reportedly took place near Kabuendo, which is located near the border of the Park, in the Central sector between Nyamilima and Niamitwitwi.
According to Virunga National Park, ‘Preliminary investigations indicate that the rangers were taken by surprise and had no opportunity to defend themselves.’
Investigations into the incident suggest local Mai-Mai groups were responsible for the attack.
The Virunga National Park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978. It is Africa’s oldest national park and largest tropical rainforest reserve. The site covers 7,800sq km of varied landscapes, including active volcanoes, savannahs, mountains, lakes and forests. It is also home to half the global population of mountain gorillas, which are arguably the park’s biggest tourist attraction. Tourists venture across the border from Rwanda to see these majestic animals.
Unfortunately, dozens of armed militia groups operate in eastern Congo, near the park. These militia groups were formed during the turn of the century when civil wars were rampant in the region. These wars resulted in millions of deaths from conflict, hunger and disease, all of which are still being felt today, according to CNN.
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.