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Wildlife rangers among eight killed in Congo attack

by Staff Writers
Kinshasa (AFP) Jan 25, 2011
Three wildlife rangers and five government soldiers have been killed in an attack by Rwandan Hutu rebels in eastern DR Congo's Virunga National Park, the park's director said Tuesday.

Around 50 rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) attacked an army patrol in the park on Monday, park director Emmanuel de Merode told AFP.

The park rangers were travelling with the soldiers in an army patrol vehicle, he said.

"The rebels fired rocket launchers and a shell hit the vehicle," de Merode said. Eight of the men on board, including the rangers, were killed instantly, and three others were wounded, he said.

De Merode said the attack, north of the village of Mabenga, was the most serious incident in the UNESCO World Heritage Site in the last 12 months.

More than 130 park rangers have been killed in various conflicts between government and rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1996.

The 7,800 square kilometre (3,011 square mile) Virunga national park, established in 1925, is the oldest in Africa, and is home to around one-third of the world's population of rare mountain gorillas, as well as elephants, hippopotamus, buffalo and antelope.

Hutu rebels from neighbouring Rwanda have long been based in the park and regularly clash with government forces and other militant groups.

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