Prince William has called an attack that left six park rangers dead “horrendous” and “condemns” the actions of those responsible.
Six rangers were killed at Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is home to endangered mountain gorillas. The youngest victim was 25.
The attack took place on Sunday morning and was confirmed by a spokesman for the park, Olivier Mukisya.
He said: “A group of armed men attacked our positions in the region of Nyamitwitwi in the middle of Virunga national park.”
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The Duke of Cambridge said: “The horrendous attack on staff at the Virunga National Park is abhorrent and I condemn the actions of those responsible in the strongest terms.
“Rangers who work tirelessly to protect both the national park and the neighbouring communities should be honoured not attacked. They should never find themselves in a position where their lives are on the line.”
The six men were named as: Surumwe Burhani Abdou, 30; Alexis Kamate Mundunaenda, 25; Reagan Maneno Kataghalirwa, 27; Eric Kibanja Bashenkere, 28; Innocent Paluku Budoyi, 28; and Prince Nzabonimpa Ntamakiriro, who was 27.
One other ranger was wounded but his injuries were reported to be non-life threatening.
A statement shared online explained: “At approximately 07.30am local time, the Rangers were ambushed while on foot patrol inside the Park. The attack took place near Kabuendo, which is located near the border of the Park, in the Central sector, between Nyamilima and Niamitwitwi.
“Preliminary investigations indicate that the rangers were taken by surprise and had no opportunity to defend themselves, and that those responsible for the attack are local Mai-Mai groups.”
Mai-Mai groups refer to community based militia groups in the DR Congo. They have previously been linked to attacks on rangers and gorillas in the park.
The statement added: “Virunga National Park deeply regrets the tragic loss of life among its Rangers, who work tirelessly and with dedication to protect both the Park and the neighbouring communities from the tyranny of armed groups. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten nor be in vain.”
According to Reuters, more than 200 rangers have been killed in the last decade in the park, with the deadliest attack taking place last April, when 12 died.
Virunga has been UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site since 1979. The wildlife population has been under threat from poaching as well as a result of the Congolese civil war.
Prince William, 38, and his brother Prince Harry, 36, have a long association with the continent of Africa, and William proposed to his wife Kate in Kenya.
Harry has called Africa his second home and took his wife Meghan there early on in their relationship.
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