Clash at UNESCO World Heritage Site in Congo Leaves 17 Dead

A tragic event at Virunga National Park

Virunga National Park
Virunga National Park was the site of a harrowing confrontation earlier this week.
Guy Debonnet/Creative Commons

Virunga National Park, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is home to some of the world’s most striking landscapes, and some of its most endangered wildlife. A group of hundreds of park rangers works to protect them — and also faces off against other dangers. A 2018 article in The Guardian cited some of the threats that park rangers needed to be aware of: “There are armed rebel groups, hardened by years of combat against the Congolese government troops or those of neighbouring countries, local bandits and self-defence militia, and poachers out for ivory or bush meat.”

One conflict between rangers and an armed group proved, tragically, to be fatal to 17 people — including 12 park rangers. At The New York Times, Abdi Latif Dahir reports on the clash. The rangers came to the aid of a vehicle that was under fire as they returned to the park. The resulting battle left 12 rangers dead, along with a driver and 4 civilians. 6 others were injured in the conflict — including 4 rangers.

The article provides some details on the group responsible for the attack:

The park said the gunmen belonged to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, one of the largest foreign armed groups in the country, whose ranks include members accused of having links to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The group did not immediately respond publicly and did not claim responsibility for the Friday attack.

Virunga National Park has been temporarily closed since late March, due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19. These new events come as a tragic chapter in the park’s long history, and offer a reminder of the harrowing effects of regional conflicts.

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