Two Britons kidnapped in the Democratic Republic of Congo freed

Two British men kidnapped in the Democratic Republic of Congo during a visit to a national park have been released, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said.

The pair were taken hostage in renowned gorilla sanctuary Virunga National Park to the east of the country on Friday.

A female park ranger travelling with the pair was killed and their driver injured when the two men were seized.

Mr Johnson said: "I am delighted to announce that two British nationals who were held hostage in the Democratic Republic of 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 thoughts 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."

IUCN Red List
Virunga is home to around a quarter of the world's critically endangered mountain gorillas (PA)

The park has seen rising violence in recent months as armed groups stage raids to steal resources, particularly charcoal.

Last month five young rangers and a driver were killed in a militia ambush, the park said.

It was the deadliest attack in recent years and took the total number of rangers killed to 175.

Virunga is a Unesco world heritage site, covering 3,000 square miles on the Democratic Republic of Congo's border with Uganda and Rwanda.

Founded in 1925, it is home to to around a quarter of the world's critically endangered mountain gorillas and other endangered species as well as lions, elephants, hippos and a host of rare bird species.

Last year, a fifth of the park's southern sector was deforested owing to illegal charcoal production, the park said.

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