Two United Nations workers who were part of a peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo were kidnapped by unknown assailants in the central Kasai region on Sunday.
American U.N. official Michael Sharp, 34, was one of six people who were kidnapped
The other U.N. worker taken was Zaida Catalan, a Swedish national. In addition, four Congolese nationals, three motorcycle drivers and one interpreter were also kidnapped.
“The ambush took place in a bush where there is neither the police nor the army,” said Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, deputy prime minister in charge of the Interior.
“It is indeed young drug addicts belonging to the militia of Kamwina Nsapu who attacked the two experts,” he added.
A U.N. spokesman confirmed they were missing and that U.N. peacekeepers were searching for them
“The United Nations and MONUSCO are doing all that is possible at this moment to locate the two experts,” the spokesman said.
The Congolese government released a statement which said administrative and security services are working full time to liberate the kidnapped persons. Sharp’s father was given the same information.
“Sadly, it is true,” John Sharp told NBC News by phone. “At one point [during the journey], they were surprised, confronted and taken.”
The U.S. State Department is also monitoring the situation, according to a statement sent by the embassy.
“The U.S. Department of State has no higher priority than the protection of U.S. citizens overseas. When a U.S. citizen is missing, we work closely with local authorities and cooperate fully in their search efforts,” the statement said.
For the last eight months, conflict between the DRC’s security forces and militiamen have been intensifying in the heavily forested Kasai region.
More than 400 people have been killed and 200,000 displaced by the violence, according to a U.N. mission statement.
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