Prosecutors name two WFP officials over Italy envoy death

Prosecutors name two WFP officials over Italy envoy death
Italy’s ambassador to Congo, Luca Attanasio, his Italian bodyguard and Congolese driver died in an ambush last February of a World Food Programme (WFP) convoy travelling near the border with Rwanda. (AP/File Photo)
Short Url
Updated 09 February 2022

Prosecutors name two WFP officials over Italy envoy death

Prosecutors name two WFP officials over Italy envoy death
  • Two WFP officials are alleged to have "omitted, through negligence, recklessness and inexperience" to take the necessary security measures to protect the trio, said prosecutors
  • Six assailants armed with five AK-47 assault rifles and a machete attacked the convoy

ROME: Italian prosecutors allege that negligence by two UN officials played a role in the 2021 killing of Italy’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, media reports said on Wednesday.
Luca Attanasio, 43, his Italian bodyguard and a Congolese driver died following an ambush last February of a World Food Programme (WFP) convoy traveling through a dangerous part of eastern DRC near the border with Rwanda.
WFP officials Rocco Leone and Mansour Luguru Rwagaza are alleged to have “omitted, through negligence, recklessness and inexperience” to take the necessary security measures to protect the trio, prosecutors were quoted as saying.
Prosecutors, who did not respond to an AFP request for comment, may now ask that the pair be tried. It will be at the discretion of a judge to decide if the case goes to court.
A WFP spokesman, a branch of the United Nations focused on hunger and food security, did not immediately have a comment when contacted by AFP.
The convoy was ambushed north of the North Kivu capital of Goma on a road that runs through thickly forested, mountainous terrain next to the porous border with Rwanda.
Six assailants armed with five AK-47 assault rifles and a machete attacked the convoy, shooting dead the driver and forcing the others into the forest.
Park rangers and army troops nearby heard the noise and pursued the attackers, but the assailants shot the bodyguard on the spot. The ambassador was wounded and later died in hospital.
The convoy had been traveling along a road that had seen “at least twenty gunfights between criminal groups and the army in recent years,” the prosecutors said in a statement published in news reports.
Plans to enter that area of DRC should have been submitted to the UN’s peacekeeping mission — which is responsible for providing specific security information and deciding whether an armed escort and armored vehicles are necessary — at least five days in advance.
Prosecutors also said that official permission for the mission should have been requested at least 72 hours ahead of the trip, as per UN rules.
But Leone, WFP’s deputy country director in the DCR, and security officer Luguru, only requested permission the evening before departure, the prosecutors said.
The pair also put their own names on the mission form — instead of those of Attanasio and bodyguard Vittorio Iacovacci — to speed the request through, they said.
Skipping the mandatory risk assessment also meant it had not been determined if the trio should have had helmets or bulletproof vests, they added.
In the wake of the attack, the DRC’s interior ministry blamed the killings on the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Rwandan Hutu rebel group.
The FDLR rejected the allegation and instead blamed the Rwandan and DRC armies.