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Britons ‘relieved’ after kidnap ordeal ends in DR Congo

The pair were released unharmed on Sunday.

FCO handout pic

Two Britons freed in the Democratic Republic of Congo after being kidnapped during a visit to a national park have said they are “very relieved” that their ordeal is over.

The pair – named as Bethan Davies and Robert Jesty – were rescued on Sunday after being snatched in Virunga National Park on Friday.

In a statement issued on their behalf, they said: “We are very relieved that there has been a positive outcome to the kidnapping and are very grateful for the excellent support we have received. We do not plan to comment further.”

A female park ranger, 25-year-old Rachel Makisa Baraka, who was travelling with the pair was killed and their driver injured during the abduction.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said in a statement: “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 Makisa Baraka who was killed during the kidnapping, and with the injured driver and the released British nationals as they recover from this traumatic incident.”

The park’s spokeswoman refused to comment on how the situation was resolved and whether or not the kidnappers had been apprehended.

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 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.


IUCN Red List

IUCN Red List

Press Association Images

IUCN Red List

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

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said that it provided consular support to both Britons and their families throughout their ordeal.

The British ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, John Murton, said: “The UK would like to thank the DRC authorities and MONUSCO (The United Nations peace keeping mission) for their assistance in resolving this kidnapping.

“I would like in particular to praise the courage and commitment shown by the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation and the Virunga Park authorities over the past three days.

“My deepest condolences are with the family, friends and colleagues of Rachel Makisa Baraka, the Virunga ranger killed during the kidnapping. I wish the driver injured during the incident a speedy recovery.

“The bravery and determination of all the staff of Virunga is vital for the conservation of animals in the park, and the protection of local communities.”

Park director Emmanuel de Merode said in a statement: “Ranger Baraka’s life was tragically cut short in service to Virunga National Park.

“She was one of the park’s 26 female rangers and was highly committed, showing true bravery in her work.

“We extend our sincerest condolences to her family, and our thoughts are with all those affected by this incident.”