Bodies found of two UN experts missing in Democratic Republic of Congo

The two, American Michael Sharp and Swedish national Zahida Catalan, were kidnapped on March 12 along with four Congolese accompanying them in Kasai-Central province.
The two, American Michael Sharp and Swedish national Zahida Catalan, were kidnapped on March 12 along with four Congolese accompanying them in Kasai-Central province.PHOTO: REUTERS

KINSHASA (AFP) - The bodies of two UN experts who went missing in the Democratic Republic of Congo this month have been found, and one of them was decapitated, a government spokesman said Tuesday (March 28).

"The provincial police commissioner has just returned from the area where the bodies of two UN researchers were found," Lambert Mende told AFP.

One of the bodies, that of a woman, had been decapitated.

The two, American Michael Sharp and Swedish national Zahida Catalan, were kidnapped on March 12 along with four Congolese accompanying them in Kasai-Central province.

The remote region has been plagued by violence since mid-August, when government forces killed Kamwina Nsapu, a tribal chief and militia leader who had rebelled against President Joseph Kabila's central government Congolese national police on Monday accused the rebels of massacring 39 of their officers in Kasai.

Several days before the two UN experts were kidnapped, a Uruguayan peacekeeper was shot and injured in the same region.

Sharp's father, John Sharp, reacted to the news on his Facebook page.

"We have been informed that two Caucasian bodies have been found in shallow graves in the search area, one male and one female.

"Since no other Caucasians have been reported missing in that region, there is a high probability that these are the bodies of MJ and Zaida. Dental records and DNA samples will be used to confirm the identities. This will take some time."

Mende said police experts along with units from the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, known as MONUSCO, have taken the bodies to the morgue at the airport of the Kasaï-Central capital of Kananga.

The United Nations has 19,000 soldiers, police and military observers deployed in the country as part of MONUSCO - the largest and costliest peacekeeping mission in the world.

About 100 of those troops were recently dispatched to the Kasai region.