Congo, Italy, UN probe ambassador's killing amid questions

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The coffins of Italian ambassador to Congo Luca Attanasio and Carabinieri officer Vittorio Iacovacci, draped with the Italian flag, are loaded onto an airplane for repatriation to Italy, at the airport in Goma, North Kivu province, Congo Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. An Italian Carabinieri unit is expected in Congo Tuesday to investigate the killings of the Italian ambassador to Congo, an Italian Carabinieri police officer and their driver in the country's east. (AP Photo/Justin Kabumba)

KINSHASA – Italian Carabinieri experts were joining U.N. and Congolese authorities in investigating the killings of the Italian ambassador, his bodyguard and their driver in eastern Congo amid questions about the dynamics of the attack and security precautions taken for the convoy.

The two-car World Food Program convoy was travelling from Goma, the regional capital in the east, to visit a WFP school project in Rutshuru, when an armed group blocked their passage Monday and ordered the passengers out, WFP said Tuesday.

The Congolese driver Moustapha Milambo was killed immediately. WFP said Ambassador Luca Attanasio and Carabinieri officer Vittorio Iacovacci were fatally shot in an ensuing shootout.

But how events transpired exactly remained unclear, with WFP saying the road had been previously cleared for travel without security escorts. U.N. security officials based on Congo usually determine whether roads are safe.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Tuesday in New York that the U.N. had launched an internal review concerning the “security around the incident."

The bodies of the ambassador and the officer headed back to Italy on a plane chartered by the Italian government, as Pope Francis paid homage to the “two noble children of the Italian nation" in an unusually personal letter of condolences to the Italian president.

Eastern Congo is home to myriad rebel groups all vying for control of parts of the mineral-rich, loosely governed Central African nation that is the size of Western Europe.

“Investigations are underway to find the perpetrators of this despicable crime,” said North Kivu governor Carly Nzanzu Kasivita.