4 members of anti-poaching patrol in Congo park killed

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Poachers killed three rangers and one Congolese military colonel who were part of a 10-man patrol that tracked the satellite collar of a killed elephant to a poachers' camp in a national park in Congo, the park's managers said Friday

The anti-poaching patrol was outnumbered and forced to disperse in the Oct. 5 clash in Garamba National Park in northeast Congo and a park helicopter was also hit by gunfire, said African Parks, a non-profit group based in Johannesburg.

The group, which has been managing Garamba since 2005 in partnership with Congo's government, said the helicopter was able to pick up six members of the patrol, one of whom was injured, and that a larger team reached the site of the clash and discovered the bodies of the dead men on Thursday.

A United Nations peacekeeping mission in the area, known as MONUSCO, provided some logistical help in retrieving the bodies, African Parks said. But it said international forces provided "very little support or assistance" when asked to help find the four missing men and to track and detain the poachers.

The peacekeeping mission includes a force intervention brigade with a mandate to take offensive military action against rebel groups. Eastern Congo has been plagued by such groups since Rwanda's genocide two decades ago.

Garamba park has been particularly vulnerable to poaching because of the conflict in the area. In June, African Parks said heavily armed poachers killed a ranger and two soldiers patrolling there.