The incident took place early on Wednesday, with the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN) saying one of its rangers had been shot dead by armed militants, who have long been active in restive North Kivu province.
Ranger, 2 civilians killed in DR Congo national park
A ranger and two civilians were shot dead during a confrontation in Virunga national park in restive eastern DR Congo, the park authority and local sources said Thursday.
Local sources confirmed the death and said two civilians had also been killed. But they said the violence erupted during a dispute over building permits outside an ICCN office in Vitshumbi, a village in the heart of the park on the shores of Lake Edward.
In a statement, the ICCN said the ranger's post in Vitshumbi had come under attack "from enemy fire", leaving one guard dead and prompting the others to return fire "to rebuff the attack and to clear a way out of the zone of confrontation".
But residents of Vitshumbi, a fishing village which lies at the southern end of Lake Edward, told AFP the rangers had opened fire on people protesting an ICCN ban on bringing construction material into the park.
"Three people died, two civilians and a park ranger, and two school children were injured," village official Destin Katembo told AFP.
"We all went down to the ICCN office. They opened fire, hitting two people, both fishermen, and a ranger also died," local fisherman Kambale Sikulisimwa told AFP.
One of the most important conservation sites in the world, Virunga national park is Africa's oldest nature reserve and famed for its endangered mountain gorillas.
Covering more than 7,800 square kilometres (3,000 square miles), the park is located in an area of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo which borders Uganda and Rwanda which has been blighted by militia violence.
Numerous militia groups and armed gangs roam North Kivu fighting for control of territorial and natural resources, with the park suspending all tourism activities earlier this year following the kidnapping of two British tourists.
Since the start of the year, at least eight of the park's rangers have been killed by armed groups.
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