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Body of kidnapped Swedish UN worker found in Congo

Updated onsdag 29 mars 2017 kl 12.54
Published onsdag 29 mars 2017 kl 08.59
Africa correspondent: This is an unprecedented killing.
(3:28 min)
Zaida Catalán led the Young Greens for four years.
Zaida Catalán led the Young Greens for four years. Credit: Sören Andersson

Swedish UN worker Zaida Catalán, who disappeared during a UN mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this month, has been confirmed dead, after her body was found in a shallow grave.

Catalán, 36, who led the Young Greens of Sweden between 2001 and 2005, was kidnapped on March 12 on a UN mission to investigate human rights abuses in Congo's Kasai Central province.

Her body, together with that of her UN colleague Michael Sharp and their Congolese interpreter, was found on Monday by Congolese police.  

After leaving politics in 2010, Catalán worked for the EU's EUPOL division in Goma, the troubled region of the eastern Congo, in Afghanistan and in the West Bank. 

Swedish education minister Gustav Fridolin, who led the Young Greens together with Catalán, on Wednesday night paid tribute to an energetic, intelligent and humorous colleague.

There was always a biting commentary on the present day, and with that a sense of always being on the go, that there was always more to do," he told TT newswire.

"We led this then little youth party together and she took on every task with an extreme energy."

"There's a great sorrow. She will leave a huge empty space in our party. I can't even begin to understand how terrible it must feel for her family and her loved ones."

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said that Catalán had died trying to bring greater security to a country "plagued by violence and destruction".

"We mourn the loss of yet another person in the service of the UN and of peace," he said in a written statement.

"We share the loss and confusion with those close to her and feel at the same time a deep sense of thanks for her achievements."

Catalán, whose mother is Swedish and whose father was a political refugee from Chile, was born in Stockholm and grew up in Småland.

Kasai has been wracked with violence since government troops killed a rebel leader last summer, since when there have been violent reprisals against the local Kamwina Nsapu rebels. 

Ten mass graves have been found and video clips have circulated on social media showing regime soldiers killing unarmed women and children.

The UN's Secretary-General António Guterres offored his condolences in a statement.   

"Michael and Zaida lost their lives seeking to understand the causes of conflict and insecurity in the DRC in order to help bring peace to the country and its people.  We will honor their memory by continuing to support the invaluable work of the Group of Experts and the whole UN family in the DRC."

He added that he hoped the killers would be brought to justice.

"It is our hope that the cause of their deaths will be determined following a more thorough examination.  I trust that the Congolese authorities will conduct a full investigation into this incident. The United Nations will also conduct an inquiry. In case of criminal acts, the United Nations will do everything possible to ensure that justice is done."

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