Investigation into deaths of UN experts in DR Congo

Bodies of American Michael Sharp and Swedish national Zaida Catalan found in shallow grave

Zaida Catalan and Michael Sharp
Zaida Catalan and Michael Sharp
(Image credit: Human Rights Watch )

An investigation has been launched in the Democratic Republic of Congo after the bodies of two UN experts and their translator were found in a shallow grave.

Zaida Catalan, 36, from Sweden, and Michael Sharp, a 34-year-old American, were found dead on Monday along with Congolese national Betu Tshintela.

They went missing on 12 March while visiting the politically unstable country to investigate alleged large-scale human rights violations by the Congolese army and local militias.

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Their bodies were found together in the central Kasai province: Catalan had been decapitated but the other two were intact.

A further three Congolese staff who were with the trio have not yet been accounted for.

The UN confirmed on Tuesday that the bodies were of the three missing workers.

According to CNN, the remains were to be moved to the capital, Kinshasa, today.

This is the first recorded disappearance of international workers in the "once-calm" Kasai province, says Associated Press.

However, since last year, the region has been the scene of an ongoing conflict between the Kamwina Nsapu militia and government forces, with more than 400 deaths and 200,000 people displaced.

A UN diplomat, speaking anonymously, told the news agency that Catalan and Sharp had been investigating mass graves connected to the fighting.

Antonio Guterres, UN secretary-general, said the organisation would conduct an inquiry into the deaths, while a spokesman for the Congo confirmed they would investigate and attempt to find the remaining missing workers.

In a statement, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Sharp, from Pennsylvania, and Catalan, had been "killed senselessly".

Sweden's national police said it has initiated a murder investigation into Catalan's death.

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