Two British people have been kidnapped near a world-famous gorilla sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Brits and a local driver were taken on a route between Kibaya and Kibumba after a female ranger was killed in an attack close to the Virunga National Park today.
The Foreign Office confirmed to Mirror Online that two Brits have been kidnapped.
The park was alerted to an incident at 10am and immediately deployed security staff to assess the situation, park spokesman Vianney Harakandi told CNN.
A female ranger had been killed and two British tourists and a local driver were kidnapped 10km from Goma, according to local station Radio Okapi said.
The Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation also confirmed the incident in North Kivu.
A source close to Virunga said the group were likely to be on their way to visit the park when they were kidnapped.
Reports on social media also claimed that "two ‘European’ tourists were abducted and that there had been "an ambush against tourists."
An FCO spokesperson said: “We are in close contact with the authorities in Democratic Republic of the Congo following an incident involving two British nationals, and our staff are providing support to their families.”
The incident happened days after it emerged that 17 people have died from an Ebola outbreak in the DRC, which spread through a remote area of the country into the major town Bokoro.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said today it is planning for the worst case scenario and has alerted nine neighbouring countries.
WHO’s Deputy Director-General of Emergency Preparedness and Response Peter Salama says he is now hoping for the green light from the country’s government to deploy a vaccine.
The revelation has caused concern just a few years after Ebola swept across West Africa between 2014 and 2016, killing at least 11,000 people.
It is the ninth time it has been recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose eastern Ebola river gave the deadly virus its name when it was discovered there in the 1970s.
The dangers around Virunga National Park and DRC
Virunga National Park – spanning 3,011 miles – is located in DRC’s unstable North Kivu province.
It faces multiple threats from rebel groups, local bandits and the self-defence MaiMai militia partly due to its hugely lucrative charcoal industry, for which the trees of the park are the principal raw material.
It is also home to one of the world’s largest populations of critically endangered mountain gorillas as well as hundreds of other rare species.
In April five rangers aged between 22 and 30 were killed in an attack from a group that officials believe belong to Mai Mai militia.
However, the DRC as a whole has faced growing violence recently, with authorities advising Brits avoid numerous areas across the country.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice
The FCO advise against all travel to the provinces of Kasaï, Kasaï Central, Kasaï Oriental, Haut-Uele, Haut Lomami, Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, Maniema and Tanganyika, areas to the west and east of Kananga including Tshikapa and Mwene-Ditu (as shown on the map), and within 50km of the border with the Central African Republic and South Sudan.
The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the cities of Goma and Bukavu and to the districts of N’djili and Kimbanseke in Kinshasa. In 2017, there has been an increase in military and police stop-and-search checkpoints in parts of Kinshasa, especially after dark.
Since July 2017, there have been increased reports of several towns in the South Kivu province of eastern DRC being attacked by or having come under the control of armed groups.
There are reports of serious clashes between Congolese Armed Forces and militia groups around Uvira in South Kivu Province.
The FCO advise against all travel to this region.
People travel from all across the globe to see Virunga’s population of mountain gorillas but tourism has suffered badly in recent years as militant groups and criminal gangs continue to fund a long-running war by pillaging the park’s resources.
Just last month five Virunga rangers and a staff driver were killed during an ambush in the Central Sector of the Park. A sixth ranger was also wounded.
That attack – carried out by MaiMai militia – was the deadliest attack against the park’s staff and brought the number of rangers killed in the park up to 175 in 20 years.
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