BENI (Reuters) - Congolese soldiers and park rangers have launched an operation to locate two British tourists kidnapped in the country’s volatile eastern borderlands, an army spokesman said.
Unidentified armed men ambushed the group on Friday morning north of Goma, the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province, inside Virunga National Park.
One park ranger was killed during the incident in Africa’s oldest national park and three other people, including the British citizens, were abducted.
“With Virunga National Park being within our zone of action, we have joined the park rangers for search operations for the people taken hostages,” Major Guillaume Kaiko Ndjike, the army’s spokesman in North Kivu, said on Saturday.
Britain’s Foreign Office said on Friday it was in contact with the Congolese authorities following an incident involving two British nationals and its staff were providing support to their families.
Eastern Congo has been the scene of successive waves of violence over the past two and a half decades and was at the epicentre of two wars between 1996 and 2003 that killed millions, mainly through hunger and disease.
Rebel groups and militias still control large swathes of the territory. More than 175 rangers have died protecting Virunga National Park, which is located in the rugged mountains and volcanic plains adjacent to neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda.
It has nevertheless attracted a growing number of visitors keen to visit its endangered mountain gorillas and the active Nyiragongo volcano.
Reporting by Fiston Mahamba; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Alexander Smith