At least 5 other people, all civilians, died in the attack, as well.
Reportedly, the guards were not the target. The rangers were on their way back to the park when they spotted a civilian vehicle under attack by as much as 60 fighters from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and came to their defense.
FDLR is believed to have members accused of having links to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda that left an estimate of 800,000 dead.
The FDLR has been active in the area for more than 25 years and has helped sustain its activities by exploiting the area’s valuable natural resources, including ivory, fish, minerals, and marijunana.
It was one of the deadliest attacks in the park’s history which already had a reputation as one of the most dangerous conservation projects in the world.
Virunga is Africa’s oldest national park and is known for its lush volcanic forests and is home to unparalleled biodiversity, including elephants, hundreds of bird species, and the endangered mountain gorillas.
Protecting the park has not been easy. Poaching and unrest stemming from civil wars have hurt the wildlife population and made the park vulnerable to violence from rogue militia groups. Over 175 rangers have been killed trying to protect this community.
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