Two British tourists who were kidnapped in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been freed, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Sunday. Their vehicle was attacked on Friday in the Virunga national park, a famed haven for gorillas and other endangered species.
Their guard was killed and their driver was also kidnapped. The Britons were released unharmed, while the driver was injured. “I am delighted to announce that two British nationals who were held hostage in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been released,” Johnson said in a statement.
“I pay tribute to the DRC authorities and the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation for their tireless help during this terrible case.
“My thoughts are now with the family of Virunga Park ranger Rachel Makissa Baraka, who was killed during the kidnapping, and with the injured driver and the released British nationals as they recover from this traumatic incident.”
A Foreign Office spokeswoman told AFP that the two Britons were released unharmed and the ministry would continue to provide support to the Britons and their families.
One of the most important conservation sites in the world, Virunga Park covers 7,800 square kilometres (3,000 miles) along a swathe of eastern DR Congo abutting the border with Uganda and Rwanda.
Established in 1925, Virunga is home to about a quarter of the world’s population of critically endangered mountain gorillas, as well as to eastern lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, okapis, lions, elephants and hippos.
But it is located in DR Congo’s North Kivu province, where armed groups are fighting for control of territorial and natural resources, and poaching is a major threat.
On April 2, a park ranger died in an attack by armed men while guarding the site of a hydroelectric plant that is under construction. On April 9, five rangers and a driver were killed in an ambush in the park.