Eleven park wardens and a US woman journalist in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are missing amid signs they were kidnapped by a local militia, sources said Saturday.
"Eleven guards and an American journalist working for the Okapi Wildlife Reserve (RFO) were abducted on Friday by the Mai-Mai Simba," Alfred Bongwalanga, administrator of Mambasa district in the province of Ituri, told AFP.
Separately, a senior official with the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN), speaking on condition of anonymity, said, "Eleven RFO park wardens and an American journalist are missing, while two Britons and five other wardens escaped when they were attacked by the Mai-Mai Simba."
The vice-governor of Ituri, Pacifique Keta, said the armed forces and "every service" had been informed of the incident.
The names of the missing wardens and female journalist were not given.
The DRC is a vast country wracked by decades of war and poverty. The east of the country is especially troubled. It has been gripped by more than 20 years of armed conflict among domestic and foreign groups, fuelled by a struggle for control of lucrative resources as well as ethnic and property disputes.
The Mai-Mai Simba is a self-described "self-defence" militia drawn from the Nande, Hunde and Kobo communities as well as rivals from the Nyaturu, who represent ethnic Hutus.
Many of these groups were armed during the DRC's second war -- a conflict that ran from 1998-2003 -- to fight incursion by Rwandan or Ugandan combatants, and have never been disarmed.
The RFO, a World Heritage site, covers nearly 14,000 square kilometres, protecting much of the Ituri forest near the borders with Sudan and Uganda.
The park is notably home to the okapi, an endangered zebra-like species that is a cousin of the giraffe. It is also home to the Mbutu and Efe pygmies, hunter-gatherers who are "among the last true 'forest people' on Earth," according to the Okapi Conservation Project website.
Eleven people were killed when militants attacked a prison in the Democratic Republic of Congo and freed more than 900 inmates, officials say.
The governor of North Kivu province said the attackers had used heavy weapons in the raid on the jail in Beni.
At least eight of the dead are prison guards, Julien Paluku added. A curfew has been declared.
The identity of the attackers is not yet clear.
Local activist Teddy Kataliko said many self-defence militias, known as Mai-Mai groups, operated around Beni.
DR Congo has been in crisis since President Joseph Kabila refused to step down after his term ended last year.
The incident in Beni is the latest in a series of jailbreaks in the country.
Last month about 4,000 inmates escaped from a high security prison in the capital Kinshasa following an attack blamed on a separatist sect.
More than 3,000 prisoners are believed to have escaped from the main prison in Democratic Republic of Congo, security sources have told the BBC.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.