KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo - Italy's ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo was assassinated Monday while traveling in a convoy.
Ambassador Luca Attanasio, 43, was proceeding towards the town of Rutshuru in the east of the country when his convoy was attacked.
Members of a militia were said to have opened fire on the convoy, killing the ambassador's driver and forcing the autos to halt. The passengers were then ordered to leave their vehicles and march into the forest.
At this point, park rangers arrived and opened fire on the militia, according to the governor of North Kivu province, Carly Nzanzu Kasivita, as reported by Reuters.
Attanasio was reportedly shot in the stomach during the skirmish.
The convoy was made up of vehicles from the U.N.'s World Food Programme (WFP) that was traveling to visit a school food programme in Rutshuru.
The website of Italy's foreign ministry said Attanasio had been head of mission in Congo's capital Kinshasa since 2017, having been promoted to ambassador in 2019. Attanasio was married and had three daughters.
"It was with great shock and immense sorrow that I learned of the death today of our Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and of a Carabinieri policeman," Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said in a statement.
"The circumstances of this brutal attack are still unclear and no effort will be spared to shed light on what happened."
Officials note that there are dozens of armed groups operating in and around Virunga National Park along Congo's borders with Rwanda and Uganda where Attanasio was killed.
The ambassador's driver, who was killed, has been identified as Vittorio Iacovacci, 30 years-old.