It has now been confirmed that the eight Muslim clerics kidnapped by rebels last week in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are Tanzanians and efforts are underway to rescue them.
The Head of Government Communications Unit in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ms Mindi Kasiga, corroborated the new development during a telephone interview with ‘Daily News’.
“Efforts are underway to rescue the clerics and our Ambassador in DRC Anthony Cheche is working closely with authorities in that country,” she explained without going much into details.
Ms Kasiga said the government of Tanzania was in touch with authorities in DRC together with the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) to free the hostages.
She, however, urged Tanzanians travelling to foreign countries to report to authorities their presence in those countries to enable the government make a swift follow-up in case of any predicament.
The eight clerics are said to have made their religious mission in the war-ravaged country without informing responsible state agencies.
Impeccable sources from within DRC indicate that the Muslim missionaries got lost while on their mission and were eventually trapped by the rebels.
There are also accounts that the kidnappers want a ransom to be paid before the clerics are released but Ms Kasiga was not in a position to confirm the reports.
“We have been reading about the ransom issue in the media but we have not independently confirmed the reports,” she said.
The eight hostages are said to have been kidnapped in an area where several armed groups operate and kidnappings are frequent.
Reports have it that the clerics were taken over the weekend from Kiseguro area, in the restive province of North Kivu, province Governor Julien Paluku told AFP.
Kidnappings for ransom are frequent in the territory around Kiseguro. Several armed groups, including the mostly ethnic Hutu militia Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), operate in the eastern DRC.
It is not clear who captured the clerics, but authorities speculated that FDLR or local youths could be behind the kidnapping.