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Clash between armed guards and indigenous Pygmies at gorilla sanctuary leaves one dead

Tim Wyatt

A violent confrontation between armed guards and an indigenous Pygmy tribe at a national park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has left one person dead and 14 others injured.

The clash happened near the Kahuzi Biega park, famous as a sanctuary for endangered Eastern lowland gorillas, on Wednesday.

A spokesman for the Unesco heritage site said one of its conservation patrols was chasing two poachers when it was ambushed “by Pygmies armed with machetes and bows and arrows”.

The guards, armed with guns, shot back at the Pygmies, killing one and injuring another.

Hubert Mulongoy, the park spokesman, said 13 park wardens were hurt in the fight, three of them seriously.

“One of the seriously injured had his fingers severed by a machete,” Mr Mulongoy added.

There has been growing tension between the Pygmies and park authorities in recent months.

In April, another park ranger was killed during a confrontation, one day after a Pygmy had died in a separate incident.

The Pygmies are reportedly angry about being denied access to the national park, which is named after two extinct volcanoes lying within its 6,000 sq km range.

Park rangers claim the indigenous peoples have been illegally entering the boundaries of Kahuzi Biega since last year and carrying out deforestation.

The national park is one of the DRC’s leading tourist attractions and home to the last remaining wild population of Eastern lowland gorillas in the world.

But violent confrontations inside national parks are not uncommon in the DRC, which has been afflicted by conflict and political instability for decades.

In March, a ranger was killed in Virunga national park, just weeks after the North Kivu province sanctuary was re-opened to tourists.

Two British tourists were kidnapped with their driver while exploring Virunga last summer. A park ranger who was travelling with them was killed during the abduction.

After being briefly held hostage the pair were released.