The journey management planning that led to the ambush of the Italian Ambassador to DRC Mr. Luca Attanasio and his team in an early morning convoy in Northern Kivu province had too many loopholes. The intelligence and security assessment of the area was wrong – exposing the Ambassador and his team to the merci of rag-tag armed criminals. This incident should never have happened and lessons MUST be learned.  

Impeccable sources have revealed details of the circumstances surrounding the assassination of the Italian Ambassador to DR Congo - one of the richest mineral resourced country in the world situated in central and Eastern part of Africa. 

The late Italian ambassador ( Mr. Luca Attanasio) was ambushed alongside one Congolese Driver; and his personal bodyguard Mr. Vittorio Lacovacci while driving in an unguarded convoy of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) on Monday 22nd of February 2021 at about 9am local time. The location of the attack was identified as the route leading to Rutshuru - Kibumba In the territory of Nyiragongo - Goma - Northern Kivu province of DRC borders with Rwanda. 


The ambassador was shot in the lower abdomen in what locals have described as a targeted assassination which has the potential to muddy the good bilateral relations between Italy and the government of DRC. 4 other personnel were reported to have been kidnapped by the armed rebels. One unidentified person was found after a manhunt launched by DRC Police forces the others are still at large. 

The bleeding diplomat was rushed to the nearest secured hospital in the back of a truck by guards of the Congolese institute for the protection of the natural habitat ( French acronym ICCN ) - the hospital was named as the UN Goma hospital. Mr. Luca Attanasio was pronounced dead hours later. 

Local sources have identified the suspected armed group as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda - locally referred to as FDLR or Force Démocratique pour la Liberation du Rwanda. It has been linked to Rwanda with local Congolese holding rank and file positions. The North Kivu area where the Italian Ambassador was attacked is known to harbor various local and external armed militias vying for control of the rich mineral region. 

Sources close to the DRC government have revealed with regret that both state and regional security forces and local authorities of the Northern Kivu province were unaware of the journey management planning by the team of the Italian Ambassador to DRC. Unipol - the United Nations Police in DRC was not requested to provide needed security cover to the convoy despite the use of WFP vehicles by the Ambassador’s selected team. 

The absence of a robust risk assessment and a coordinated state journey security management plan did not only put the life of the Italian diplomatic team at risk but it delayed the rescue after the unfortunate ambush - leaving emergency rescue and response in the hands of patriotic but less trained and equipped members of the local ICCN. If the situation were arranged differently , perhaps a quicker response by the UN or national Congolese security elements would have led to the rapid deployment of an air ambulance to the safest area in the location of the attack. 

This regrettable incident was a diplomatic security blunder and indicates a huge failure of intelligence on the threat spectrum within the Northern Kivu region. As a joint investigation is imminent on what went wrong, all diplomatic missions in DRC and elsewhere MUST consider this event as a lesson for the need to coordinate movement of high Value Personalities (HVP) within national territories of host nations - routine is a killer.

About the Author

David Otto is an International Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime Expert and the leading Director of Counter Terrorism at the Geneva Centre for Africa Security and Strategic Studies (GCASSS). He is also the Director for Counter Terrorism Programme Design for the UK based - Stepped In Step Out Ltd - He is a Certified Anti -Terrorism Specialist (CAS), a Certified Master Anti-Terrorism Specialist (CMAS) and a program trainer with the Anti-Terrorism Accreditation Board (ATAB).



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