A military plane has left the Democratic Republic of Congo for Italy loaded with the bodies of Italy's ambassador and his bodyguard in coffins draped in Italian flags a day after they were shot dead in an ambush on a UN convoy.
Ambassador Luca Attanasio, 43, and his bodyguard Vittorio Iacovacci, 30, were killed while travelling in a World Food Programme convoy to visit a school feeding project.
WFP driver Mustapha Milambo was also killed.
The two wooden coffins were loaded onto an Italian military cargo plane in the city of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, near the Rwandan border.
The plane then took off for Rome.
According to the country's presidency, the two-car convoy had been stopped on the road north from Goma by six armed men, who killed driver Milambo and led the six other passengers away.
Army and park rangers tracked the group and a firefight ensued, during which the kidnappers shot the two Italians.
DR Congo's interior ministry initially accused Hutu rebels from neighbouring Rwanda of the crime but the Democratic Forces of the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) denied any involvement in the attack.
The local governor said that the assailants spoke the Rwandan language Kinyarwanda.
Dario Tedesco, an Italian volcanologist based in Goma, paid tribute to his friend Attanasio.
"He was able to talk to all of us, completely different because, he was adapting himself to each of us, (making) us feeling we were important," Tedesco said.
"He believed in what he was doing and this shouldn't have been his final journey."
Australian Associated Press