The bodies of Italy’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo and his bodyguard arrived back in Rome on Tuesday aboard a military aircraft, a day after they were shot dead following an ambush in eastern Congo.
Italians on Tuesday mourned the death of Luca Attanasio, the Italian ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, who was killed in an ambush with his bodyguard and their driver while taking part in a humanitarian convoy with the World Food Program.
Mr. Attanasio’s killing struck a deep nerve in Italy, which has been under strain over the past year because of the pandemic and a political crisis that created weeks of uncertainty. Many Italians also remain sensitive to the fate of their nationals abroad after the brutal killing of a graduate student, Giulio Regeni, in Egypt in 2016.
Pictures of Mr. Attanasio surrounded by Congolese children, or posing with his wife and three small daughters, dominated the front pages of Italy’s dailies.
“Luca and Vittorio. The best of Italy,” read the headline of the Turin-based daily La Stampa, referring to Vittorio Iacovacci, the 30-year-old Italian military police officer who died with the ambassador and their Congolese driver, Mustapha Milambo of the World Food Program.
“Yesterday I couldn’t express to his family the deep sorrow of the entire Foreign Ministry and our sincere closeness,” Elisabetta Belloni, the ministry’s secretary general, wrote in an editorial in the daily Corriere della Sera. “Because silence and emotion prevailed.”
“Luca was a generous person who wanted to do good,” Ms. Belloni said. “He believed that Italy — with the European Union and the United Nations — could play an important role to promote development and peace. To this goal he devoted himself with humbleness, but also with absolute commitment and preparedness.”
Pope Francis on Tuesday expressed his condolences to the victims’ families, the diplomatic corps and the military police “for the disappearance of these servants of peace and law.”
Prosecutors in Rome started an investigation into the accident, sending a team of investigators to Goma, the capital of North Kivu, near where the killings took place. The president and the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic Republic of Congo pledged to get to the bottom of the tragedy, which took place in an area near the border with Rwanda that is known for violence.
Dozens of armed groups compete in kidnappings and violent actions in the area. Rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda is the biggest foreign armed group operating in Congo. The rebel group on Tuesday denied any involvement in the attack, saying that their men were far from the area.
On Tuesday, the Congolese president, Félix Tshisekedi, and his wife, met with Mr. Attanasio’s wife, Zakia Seddiki, who is the president of a nongovernmental organization in Congo that helps women and children in need.