Kindu atrocity

Kindu atrocity

1961 murder of Italian ONUC airmen in Kindu, present-day DR Congo

The Kindu Massacre, or Kindu Atrocity, took place on 11 or 12 November 1961 in Kindu Port-Émpain, in the Congo-Léopoldville (the former Belgian Congo). Thirteen Italian airmen who were members of the United Nations Operation in the Congo who were sent to deal with the Congo Crisis were killed and eaten by locals.

A Fairchild C-119G of the Italian 46ª Aerobrigata

The Italian aviators manned two C-119s, twin-engine transport aircraft known as Flying Boxcars, of the 46ª Aerobrigata based at Pisa Airfield.


The DR Congo was known to have vast natural resources including, but not limited to, copper, tantalum, cobalt, gold, and diamonds. In order to gain control of these resources, Belgium (backed by other European powers) colonized the DRC in the mid-1800s and oversaw a brutal regime of abuse, slavery, and resource extraction. After protests, democratic movements, increasing cost, and international pressure made their continued position untenable, Belgium agreed to a transition to Congolese self-governance. Belgium left Congo-Léopoldville (today known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo) as agreed[1] but political and administrative chaos ensued. Major Cold War and financial interests played a part in making the situation even more serious by favoring the secession of two regions, South Kasai and Katanga.[2] Katanga was the richest province in the country with important mining activity.

Three factions were involved: Joseph Kasa-Vubu's, with troops led by General Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, the pro-Lumumba faction led by Antoine Gizenga with troops under the command of General Victor Lundula holding the eastern province, and Moise Tshombe's Katangan faction, with gendarmes supported by foreign mercenaries.

The massacre

The two Italian aircrews had been operating for a year and a half in the Congo, and their return to Italy was scheduled for November 23, 1961. On the morning of November 11, 1961, the two aircraft took off from the capital city Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) to supply the small Malaysian United Nations garrison controlling the airfield not far from Kindu, on the edge of the equatorial forest.

The two C-119s appeared in the sky above Kindu shortly after 2 pm. Among the 2,000 Congolese soldiers in Kindu, rumors had spread that an airdrop by Tshombe's parachutists was imminent; Gizenga's troops, operating 500 kilometers due south in northern Katanga, had been bombed by Katangese aircraft for months.

On Saturday, the Congolese saw the two aircraft in the sky, increasing their fear and suspicions. Upon the arrival of the Congolese, more and more numerous and threatening, the unarmed Italians tried to barricade themselves in the building but were taken prisoner. The few Malaysian guards were soon overpowered. The first person to die was Medic Tenente Remotti, who was killed while trying to escape.

At dusk, the Italian airmen were killed using small arms. Then a crowd got hold of the bodies and cut them up with machetes and then the locals ate them and sold their body parts at market.

They were accused of supplying weapons to Katangan secessionists.[3] The militiamen spread rumors that the Italian aviators were flying towards Katanga and had been tricked into landing at Kindu by control tower personnel; however, special correspondent Alberto Ronchey (for the Italian newspaper La Stampa) found out a few days later that the control tower had been out of order for months ahead of the killings.[4] It was only in February 1962 that the remains of those Italians, martyrs of a peacekeeping mission, were discovered in two long and tight pits in the cemetery at Tokolote, a small village near the Lualaba River, on the edge of the woods.[5]

Another Italian had been killed in Congo some days earlier during an ambush by guerrillas. His name was Italian Red Cross Lieutenant Raffaele Soru, and he was decorated with the Gold Medal of Military Valor.

United Nations and Congolese response

On November 13, General Victor Lundula dispatched two army officials, accompanied by two UN officers, to Kindu to investigate. Colonel Pakassa refused to acknowledge their authority, and claimed that the Italians had escaped his soldiers' custody. Lundula then traveled to Kindu to insist that Pakassa file a formal report on the incident, upon which Pakassa told him that he had no information to share.[6] Lundula and Minister of Interior Christophe Gbenye submitted a formal report on the incident.[7]

The UN reinforced its garrison at Kindu and immediately prepared to disarm the rebellious Congolese soldiers. News of this action infuriated the pro-Gizenga ministers in the central government, leading to violent incidents in Parliament. Prime Minister Cyrille Adoula held a closed session, after which he denounced the UN's actions and declared their investigative commission unnecessary in the face of Lundula's and Gbenye's report. Two days later Officer in charge of UN Operations in the Congo Sture Linner agreed not to disarm the Stanleyville troops.[7] Pokassa was later arrested by Lundula after Gizenga's regime in the eastern Congo collapsed. The perpetrators of the murders were never punished.[8]


In 1994 the murdered airmen were awarded the Gold Medal of Military Valor.
Listed below are the names of the airmen. (USAF ranks are added for comparison).[9]

It was not until 2007 that the victims' relatives were awarded compensation. A monument to the Kindu victims can be found at the entrance of Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport in Rome, and another was erected in Pisa.


  1. Skousen, W. Cleo (2014). The Naked Communist. Izzard Ink Publishing. pp. 268–269. ISBN 978-1545402153.
  2. Denis Mack Smith, L'Italia del XX secolo. vol VI 1961–1970, ed. Rizzoli p. 200
  3. Denis Mack Smith, L'Italia del XX secolo vol VI 1961–1970, Rizzoli 1977
  4. A table of comparison between Italian Air Force and USAF ranks can be found in Nicola Malizia's F-47 Thunderbolt, IBN, Rome, 2005.
  5. "ken_arnold_1919 's Home Page". Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  6. Elena Mollica, Kindu, missione senza ritorno, He-Herald editore, 2008

See also


  • Packham, Eric S. (1996). Freedom and Anarchy. New York: Nova Science. ISBN 1-56072-232-0.
  • Burns, Arthur Lee; Heathcote, Nina (1963). Peace-keeping by U.N. Forces : From Suez to the Congo. Princeton Studies in World Politics. Vol. 4. New York & London: Frederick A. Praeger. OCLC 186378493.

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