WFP: Security protocols, leaks a focus of Congo probe

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United Nations peacekeepers recover bodies from an area near the site where a U.N. convoy was attacked in Nyiragongo, North Kivu province, Congo, on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. Luca Attanasio, Italian ambassador to the Congo, an Italian Carabineri bodyguard and a Congolese driver were killed in the area that is home to myriad rebel groups, according to the Foreign Ministry and local people. (AP Photo/Justin Kabumba)

ROME – A U.N. investigation into the attack on a humanitarian convoy in Congo that killed the Italian ambassador, his bodyguard and driver will look into whether the long-planned mission's security protocols were followed and whether information might have leaked to the unknown gunmen involved in the ambush.

The deputy communications director of the World Food Program, Greg Barrow, told an online briefing Friday that the Feb. 22 mission to bring Ambassador Luca Attanasio to a WFP school feeding program in eastern Congo had been in the works since 2020.

Advance planning and security meetings as well as security briefings took place up to the moment the seven-member team took off from Goma, in Congo’s east, in a two-car convoy bound for the program in Rutshuru, he said.

“Very careful planning went on ahead of this visit,” he said.

Attanasio, his security escort, Carabiniere paramilitary officer Vittorio Iacovacci, and the WFP’s Congolese driver Moustapha Milambo were killed Monday when an armed group stopped them and ordered them out of their cars. Milambo was killed instantly, and Attanasio and Iacovacci were fatally shot in an ensuing shootout after a nearby ranger patrol arrived on the scene.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack. Several armed groups are active in the region.

Italy has formally asked the United Nations for an inquiry into what happened amid questions about whether the U.N. security arrangements were sufficient for the mission. The U.N. has said the road had been declared “green” by the U.N. and cleared for travel without security escorts or armored vehicles.

The WFP says it is cooperating in the Italian, Congolese and U.N. investigations.