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Cablegate: Two Killed in Attack On Wwf Vehicle in Virunga Park

VZCZCXRO1956
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #0596 2030557
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 210557Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8209
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS KINSHASA 000596

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KENV CG
SUBJECT: TWO KILLED IN ATTACK ON WWF VEHICLE IN VIRUNGA PARK

1. (U) The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) confirmed through a press
release July 9 that two people were killed and three injured in an
attack on a WWF vehicle in Virunga National Park, around 150 km
north of Goma (Note: No U.S. citizens were involved. End note) The
vehicle, a Toyota pickup truck, was transporting a team of 11
people, including WWF staff members, GDRC park rangers, and family
members. A WWF staff member was among the wounded along with a
ranger and the wife of another ranger; killed were the wife of a
park ranger and her daughter.

2. (U) WWF Goma director Thierry Bodson was quoted in press
reporting as stating that 15 gunmen attacked the vehicle looking for
money and valuables. They reportedly made off with GPS trackers and
cell phones.

3. (SBU) Comment: There was general speculation in the press that
PARECO was responsible for the attack, but this has not been
confirmed. Congolese park rangers wear military-style uniforms and
are authorized to carry firearms; Bodson confirmed to a USAID
officer that the park rangers on the truck were armed and were
clearly visible in the bed of the truck. Bodson also noted that
just prior to this incident, two other vehicles were attacked. He
attributed these incidents to general banditry.

4. (SBU) Comment continued: Another theory for the attack,
according to the DRC Director for the UN Office for the Coordination
of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), is pre-existing antagonism between
the park rangers, who work for the DRC Ministry of Environment's
National Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN), and armed
groups in the area. The validity of this theory is unclear, but it
is known, for instance, that some "dissident" ICCN rangers joined
earlier this year with CNDP forces in control of the Mikeno Sector
of Virunga Park and were reportedly conducting guided tours of the
mountain gorilla habitat located there. OCHA continues to
investigate the circumstances and reasons for the attack. End
comment.

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