An American journalist was found alive Saturday and five Congo park rangers were found dead after they went missing in a large forest reserve during a militia attack on Friday, a local official said.
“The American journalist is safe and healthy. She hid in the forest during an attack,” Mambasa territory administrator Alfred Bongwalanga told The Associated Press on Sunday. “On the other hand, five park guards have been killed.”
Bongwalanga said details on the American journalist would be released later and it’s unclear who the assailants are at this time.
At least 10 people went missing on Friday after the Mai Mai militia launched an attack near a security station in northeast Congo’s Okapi Wildlife Reserve outside the town of Mambasa. Army reinforcements have been searching for the missing in the reserve since Friday night. Bongwalanga initially said he was “optomistic” that all the missing people will be found.
“The forest is very big. Maybe they fled in another direction. According to testimony of their colleagues, the attack came as the team wanted to go have a meal,” Bongwalanga said.
Two British journalists and five other park rangers, part of the same team, escaped during the attack, making their way to another Okapi reserve base, Bongwalanga said early Saturday.
The park rangers are part of the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation.
The Center for Studies of Peace and Defense of Human Rights identified Friday’s attackers as the Mai-Mai SIMBA, saying they attacked in Bapela, 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Mambasa. The group’s executive director, Omar Kavota, expressed concern for those missing.
Kidnappings for ransom are common in eastern Congo. A Congolese civilian was also kidnapped Friday near Mambasa by armed men, he said in a statement. A separate attack Saturday by the Mai-Mai in the country’s North Kivu province killed two soldiers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.