A Democratic Republic of Congo military court sentenced six men to life in prison on Friday over the death of the Italian ambassador, his bodyguard and driver, according to a lawyer.

Envoy Luca Attanasio, Italian bodyguard Vittorio Iacovacci and their Congolese driver Mustapha Milambo were killed on Feb. 22, 2021, during a botched kidnapping as they drove to a World Food Programme project from the eastern city of Goma.

A lawyer representing Italy, Boniface Balamage, told Reuters that five of the people sentenced to life were already in prison while one was at large and tried in absentia.

On the day when justice took its course, we celebrate the shining example and commitment of Luca, Vittorio and Moussa (Mustapha),” the Italian embassy in Kinshasa tweeted.

It was not immediately possible to confirm the court decision with Congolese authorities.

At the time, Congo’s presidency said six armed men had intercepted the two-car convoy on the road, killed Milambo and led six passengers away.

Army and park rangers tracked the group and a firefight ensued during which the kidnappers shot the two Italians.

Congolese police said last year they had detained members of a group linked to those killings and other kidnappings of charity workers.

Eastern Congo has been beset by violence for decades as rival militias fight government troops and each other for control of land and resources. Kidnappings and attacks on aid convoys, once relatively rare, are on the rise, United Nations and humanitarian organisations have warned.

Attanasio was named ambassador in Kinshasa in 2019.

After the killings, his and Iacovacci’s bodies were flown to Rome, while Milambo was buried in Goma.

Attanasio became a national hero in Italy, leaving behind his wife Zakia Seddiki and three small daughters. After Attanasio’s death, Seddiki met Pope Francis and spoke about her husband’s commitment to Africa.


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