Two Britons held hostage in Democratic Republic of Congo freed

Pair said they were very relieved after release from kidnapping in gorilla sanctuary

Two Britons and a local driver who were taken hostage on Friday in one of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s national parks have been released.

Bethan Davies and Robert Jesty- the two British nationals- said they were “very relieved”, in a statement posted issued through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

They told:” We are very relieved that we have now been a positive outcome to the kidnapping and are very grateful for the excellent supporting we have received. We do not plan to comment farther .”

Earlier the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, paid tribute to the kidnap victims and the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation for their help in securing the release.

A park ranger, Rachel Makissa Baraka, who was travelling with the pair, was fatally injured when the men and their Congolese driver were confiscated during a visit to the Virunga national park, a renowned gorilla sanctuary in the east of the African country.

A number of kidnappings have taken place during the past six weeks in the park, which is home to about one-quarter of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. They come against the backdrop of rising violence across the province of North Kivu.

Johnson told:” I am delighted to announce that two British nationals who were held hostage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been released. I pay tribute to the DRC authorities and the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation for their tireless help during this terrible case.

” My supposes are now with the family of Virunga Park ranger Rachel Makissa Baraka, who was killed during the kidnapping, and with the injured driver and the released British nationals as they recover from this traumatic incident .”

A statement issued by the park authorities said the men and their driver were receiving support and medical attention.

The park’s director, Emmanuel de Merode, said:” We are deeply saddened by the death of Virunga national park ranger Baraka, whose life was tragically cut short whilst protecting the passengers and driver. We wish to extend our deepest condolences to her family and our sincerest gratitude for her courage and service to Congo .”

Baraka, who was one of the park’s 26 female rangers, died in hospital from injuries sustained on Friday. Eight rangers have died in Virunga since the start of the year, according to the park authorities.

No further details were provided about the circumstances in which the pair were released. Congolese soldiers and park rangers have been conducting an operation to situate them after unidentified armed humen ambushed the group on Friday morning north of Goma, the capital of DRC’s North Kivu province.

The Foreign Office advises against all but essential traveling to the cities of Goma. The advice adds:” Opportunities for gorilla trekking in the Virunga national park in North Kivu are restriction, and armed groups are sometimes active within the park .”

Eastern Congo has been the scene of successive waves of violence in the past two-and-a-half decades and was at the epicentre of two wars between 1996 and 2003.

Rebel groups and militias still control big swathes of the territory. More than 175 rangers have died protecting Virunga national park, which is located in the rugged mountains and volcanic plains adjacent to neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda.

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