Six park rangers have been killed in an attack at Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The rangers were patrolling the edge of the park, in the east of the country, when they were ambushed at around 7.30am yesterday (Sunday).
The park has confirmed that the rangers who lost their lives were BURHANI ABDOU Surumwe, 30, KAMATE MUNDUNAENDA Alexis, 25, MANENO KATAGHALIRWA Reagan, 27, KIBANJA BASHEKERE Eric, 28, PALUKU BUDOYI Innocent, 28, and NZABONIMPA NTAMAKIRIRO Prince, 27.
Another ranger is receiving treatment in hospital and his injuries are no longer life-threatening.
The park - which is home to endangered mountain gorillas - has blamed the attack on militia group Mai-Mai.
Local government delegate Alphonse Kambale told AFP two militants were also killed.
In a statement, the park said: "The loss of life among the park wardens is all the more unjustified as they deploy immense efforts to protect the park and the neighbouring communities from the tyranny of armed groups. Their sacrifice will be remembered forever.
"The guards of the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature are agents of the Congolese State responsible for the implementation of the law.
"They do not have a military status and their action does not fall under the law of armed conflict. No effort will be spared to bring the perpetrators of this despicable new attack to justice, while respecting the rule of law."
The statement continued: "These tragic events will not stop the development programs led by the Virunga National Park for the benefit of neighbouring communities.
"The park will continue its efforts to contribute to the peace and security of the inhabitants of North Kivu, who, like the guards, have suffered from armed conflict for too long.
"The hearts of all staff at Virunga National Park are with the families and friends of the victims as well as their injured colleague."
The park is Africa's oldest nature reserve, spanning 7,800 sq km (3,000 sq miles).
Almost 700 armed rangers work there, but more than 200 have been killed, with 13 losing their lives in an ambush last April.
The park is home to more than half the global population of mountain gorillas.
Civil war, loss of habitat, poaching and disease pose a huge threat to the survival of the species.
Featured Image Credit: PA