Gunmen killed a police officer and kidnapped five Chinese nationals working at a gold mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s conflict-plagued east on Sunday, military sources said.
Regional army spokesman Major Dieudonne Kasereka said that “at around 2 am, the camp of the Chinese group was attacked by armed bandits” in the village of Mukera in Fizi territory of South Kivu province.
“There were 14 in total, five were taken away by the attackers to an unknown destination,” he said, adding that the other nine were safely evacuated.
Colonel David Epanga, head of the armed forces in Fizi, said one policeman was killed and another was wounded in the attack.
The five abducted Chinese workers were employees of a company that has been operating a gold mine in the area for four to five months, Fizi civil society head Lusambya Wanumbe said.
“The company had difficulties starting its activities because of protests by the population which accused it of not respecting the rules,” Wanumbe said.
In August, South Kivu authorities suspended the work of half a dozen Chinese-financed companies, after residents accused them of mining for gold without permission and wrecking the environment.
Gorilla park raid
In neighbouring North Kivu, the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) said that suspected rebels linked to the M23 movement killed a guard in Virunga National Park on Saturday night.
The ICCN said the attack was “carried out by around a hundred heavily armed individuals” near the village of Bukima, in the Mikeno area.
“The presumed perpetrators are former M23 members gathered on the Rwandan and Ugandan borders, who are seeking to establish bases on the territory of the Virunga National Park,” the ICCN said in a statement on Sunday.
The M23 is one of more than 120 armed groups which roam eastern Democratic Republic of Congo — a legacy of regional wars more than two decades ago.
It is a Congolese Tutsi group that was largely defeated in 2013 after launching a rebellion.
The militants were accused of attacking army positions close to the park and the Ugandan border on November 8, which the group’s leadership denied.
The Virunga National Park, a UNESCO listed world heritage site, is home to endangered mountain gorillas — particularly in the Mikeno area.
Also in North Kivu on Sunday, the road to Uganda was blocked by angry residents who blamed the police for not acting overnight on the kidnapping of four people in the Rangira area, local civil society sources said.
The protesters set fire to the local police station before going to block the road with tree trunks and burning tires.
The road was eventually cleared after talks with military authorities.