Two UN officials of American and Swedish nationality have been kidnapped in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Kasai Central Province.
Government officials identified the UN officials as Michael Sharp of the United States and Zahida Katalan of Sweden. They said the kidnappers have not yet been identified.
Sharp and Katalan were among a UN panel of experts investigating conflicts that have simmered in the DRC since the mid-1990s, when a civil war spawned dozens of armed groups and drew in half a dozen neighboring armies.
“They were kidnapped at a bridge over the Moyo River and taken to the forest by unknown assailants,” Congolese government spokesman, Lambert Mende, told AFP on Monday.
Four Congolese nationals – three motorcycle-taxi drivers and an interpreter – were also taken hostage, he added.
The two UN officials have been missing since Sunday, according to Charles-Antoine Bambara, the spokesman for the MONUSCO (the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) peacekeeping mission.
The Congolese and UN officials said efforts to locate the victims were under way.
A Uruguayan peacekeeper was shot and injured last week in the same region, which has been wracked by a rebellion since September.
The uprising erupted after government forces in August killed a tribal chief and militia leader, Kamwina Nsapu, who had rebelled against President Joseph Kabila.
The violence has since spilled over to the neighboring provinces of Kasai-Oriental and Lomami, leaving at least 400 people dead.
The United Nations has almost 19,000 troops deployed in the DRC, its largest and costliest peacekeeping mission. About 100 of those soldiers were recently dispatched to Kasai.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday asked the Security Council to send an extra 320 UN police to the country after a deal to end a dispute over the presidential election stalled.
By Michele Andja Nsumbu