The two British tourists who werekidnappedin the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)have been released, foreign secretary Boris Johnson has said.
The pair, reported to betwo men, were abducted alongside their driver during an ambush by an armed group while visiting theVirungaNational Park on Friday.
Rachel Masika Baraka, 25, a park ranger who was travelling with them was killed in the ambush and the driver was alsoinjured when the two men were seized.
In a statement, Mr Johnson said: “I am delighted to announce that two British nationals who were held hostage in the Democratic Republic ofCongohave been released.
“I pay tribute to the DRC authorities and theCongolese 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.”
In a statement, the Virunga National Parksaid Ms Barakahad beencritically injured in the ambush anddied of her injuries in a nearby hospital.
Park Director, Emmanuel de Merode, said Ms Baraka was one of the parks 26 female rangers and was “highly committed, showing true bravery in her work”.
He added the park hadlost eight rangers in 2018 alone, “a stark reminder of the level of risk they undertake on a daily basis to help conserve the parks wildlife and protect local communities”.
Officials at the park said the two British tourists were receiving support and medical attention and that Congolese authorities and senior park staff were working with the Foreign Office torepatriate them to the UK.
Director of the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation thanked the “brave team” for ensuring a swift resolution of the incident.
The release of the two Britons comes afterthe Congolese army and park rangerslaunched an operation to rescue them on Saturday.
The Virunga National Park, a world heritage site located in the eastern part of the country, is home to about a quarter of the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas.
Despite being one of the country’s most dangerous places, the park has attracted growing numbers of tourists hoping to get a glimpse of the gorillas.
The FCO advises against all travel to the eastern side of the country, stating: “The security situation in eastern DRC remains unstable. The continued presence of armed groups, military operations against them, intercommunal violence and an influx of refugees from neighbouring countries all contribute to a deterioration in the political, security and humanitarian situation. There are continued reports of kidnappings, including of staff from international NGOs.
“Tourists in eastern DRC have been known to be left very vulnerable as a result of trying to travel independently without escorted transport, and the risk of kidnap or injury as a result of armed or criminal activity remains high.”
The number of kidnappings in the eastern part of the DRChas increased in recent years,.
According toHuman Rights Watch, hostages are being taken to obtain a ransom and most cases include Congolese people rather than Westerners. The NGO said kidnappers typically operate in groups of up to a dozen or more people, and are often heavily armed with Kalashnikovs and other military assault weapons.
Militias and armed groups have been roaming the area since the end of the country’s bloody civil war in 2003 but a recent surge in violence saw five rangers and a driver killed in an ambush last month, raising the total number of ranger killed in the area to 175.