S. African oil worker kidnapped in DR. Congo: company

15th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

A South African working for a British oil company was kidnapped in the volatile eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, his company said, as the army blamed Rwandan rebels for the attack.

The man was kidnapped Monday while travelling with Congolese soldiers in the Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the army said, accusing Hutu rebels from neighbouring Rwanda long been based in the park.

"Two South African expatriates and four soldiers were kidnapped yesterday but only one expatriate is still detained," SOCO Exploration and Production DRC official Serge Lescaut told AFP.

A provincial army spokesman said Rwanda rebels and Congolese army deserters were behind the kidnapping in the park in Nord-Kivu province, which regularly sees clashes between rebels and soldiers.

"There was an attack around 4:00 pm by Hutu Rwandan rebels and deserters from the Congolese army, in the middle of Virunga National Park, against the vehicle of two expatriates from SOCO. One was released," Lieutenant Colonel Sylvain Ekenge told AFP.

SOCO Exploration and Production DRC is a subsidiary of SOCO International, a oil and gas exploration and production company headquartered in London that works in Africa and Southeast Asia.

In June 2010 the company clinched a contract to explore for reserves in the Virunga National Park.

Hutu rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) who are based in the park killed three wildlife rangers and five government soldiers in January, according to the park's director.

The 7,800-square-kilometre (3,011-square-mile) park was established in 1925 and is the oldest in Africa.

It is home to around one-third of the world's population of rare mountain gorillas, as well as elephants, hippopotamus, buffalo and antelope.

Several armed groups have been active since the 1990s in Nord-Kivu province and they are regularly accused of violence against the civilian population, including rape and looting.

© 2011 AFP

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