A spokesman for MONUSCO, the United Nations (UN) mission in Democratic Republic of Congo, said the UN is doing “everything that is possible” to locate two experts on a humanitarian mission who were abducted near the village of Ngombe over the weekend.
Charles Bambara confirmed on Monday that the two experts had disappeared. Zaida Catalan of Sweden, a humanitarian expert with the United Nations Security Council, and Michael Sharp, an American serving as an armed groups expert with the UN, were abducted along with four Congolese on Sunday.
Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende Omalanga said the group was traveling in the conflict-torn Kasai province of central DR Congo when they fell into the hands of unidentified “negative forces” while crossing a bridge near the village.
The official said the Congolese government was working with MONUSCO to locate and free the group.
Sharp previously worked with the Mennonite Central Committee organization and was the coordinator for its Program for Peace and Reconciliation in eastern Congo. He began working for the United Nations in 2015, and was investigating the militia-driven conflicts in the region.
Catalan, a lawyer based in Stockholm, is a human rights and gender expert who has previously worked for the European Union in conflict zones including Afghanistan. She has worked with the United Nations mission since August.
No information has been released about the identity of the Congolese nationals, including a translator, who were kidnapped with them.
The region has seen increases in attacks on humanitarian aid workers. There were 31 abductions reported in 2015, according to Radio Okapi. Those abductions continued into 2016.