Luca Attanasio, Italian ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo was killed in an attack after the convoy he was travelling in came under fire on the country’s east side.
The convoy reportedly belonged to UN’s World Food Programme (WFP).
An Italian military police officer travelling with the envoy and a Congolese driver were also killed.
“It is with deep sadness that the foreign ministry confirms the death, today in Goma, of the Italian ambassador,” the ministry’s statement said.
The attack in North Kivu province is believed to have been an attempted kidnapping, according to officials at the nearby Virunga National Park.
The vehicles were “ambushed by a group of six attackers, who fired warning shots before taking all the passengers into the Virunga National Park”, the governor of North Kivu province, Carly Nzanzu said.
“That’s when a patrol of Virunga National Park rangers intervened and managed to free four people,” he said.
“Unfortunately, before they ran away, the assailants shot the ambassador and his bodyguard, and they killed the Congolese driver at the start of the attack,” the governor added.
It is not clear who was behind the attack, but the interior ministry has accused a Hutu rebel group known as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
Many armed groups are known to operate in and around the park and militias clash regularly in the east of the country, where a large UN force is struggling to keep the peace.