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Tragic week in Virunga National Park
31 January 2011

Two major attacks on Virunga National Park staff in under a week have left four park rangers and five members of the Congolese National Army dead. These are the worst attacks on rangers in the national park in over a year and park staff fear that there has been a massive influx of rebel soldiers to the area.

On Monday 24 January, three park rangers and five members of the Congolese National Army were killed during an attack on a patrol vehicle. The car was travelling along the road between Mabenga and Rwindi through the middle of the Virunga National Park. It was deploying the men on board to help keep the road safe for local people after reports that rebel soldiers had been seen in the area. The attackers fled the scene immediately on foot.

Less than a week later on Sunday 30 January, a second deadly attack on a Virunga National Park vehicle took place. A further ranger was killed and the driver of the car remains critically ill in hospital following the shooting. The vehicle was again on patrol to protect the local population from militia when the attack took place in Kabasha, to the west of the park. 

The Congolese wildlife authority (ICCN) is currently holding crisis meetings with the National Army and the United Nations to discuss the worsening insecurities in the region.

Since 1996 over 140 rangers have been killed in the line of duty in the Virunga National Park. This shocking figure means that the Virunga National Park has suffered more ranger deaths than any other protected area on earth.

Despite the threats, rangers continue to work hard to protect the national park and its inhabitants, including some of the worlds last remaining mountain gorillas.

for further information or photographs contact:

David Hewitt, Communications Manager
The Gorilla Organization, 110 Gloucester Avenue, London, Nw1 8HX
Tel: 020 7916 4974
Mobile: 07801 971123