Two suspected members of a Rwandan Hutu rebel group were killed after ambushing guards at DR Congo’s famous Virunga National Park, the park’s authorities said on Tuesday. A joint patrol of guards and government troops came under attack on Monday between Mabenga and Kasali in the heart of the park, the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) said in a statement.
The suspected attackers were the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) — an ethnic Rwandan Hutu group that has been active in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo for more than two decades.
“A member of the (joint patrol) suffered a serious gunshot wound… (while) two assailants died, one was arrested and an AK47-type weapon was seized,” the ICCN said.
The oldest national park in Africa, Virunga is home to specular species of wildlife, including mountain gorillas. The 97-year-old haven extends across nearly 8,000 square kilometres (3,000 square miles), including the border areas with Rwanda and Uganda.
The ICCN is tasked with protecting and conserving Virunga and the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, both of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. FDLR is historically linked to figures who took part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which around 800,000 people, mainly from the Tutsi minority, were slaughtered.
The group’s leader, Sylvestre Mudacumura, was killed in DR Congo’s North Kivu province in September 2019. The last major FDLR-attributed attack on the park was in April 2020, when 12 guards died.