U.N. staffer investigated in Italy over death of ambassador - source

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FILE PHOTO: An undated handout picture of Italian Ambassador Luca Attanasio

ROME (Reuters) - A United Nations employee has been placed under investigation by Italian prosecutors looking into the murder of Italy's ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and two other people, a judicial source said on Wednesday.

The unidentified employee is a Congolese citizen and works for the U.N.'s World Food Programme (WFP). He is under investigation for allegedly failing to take sufficient precautions to prevent the fatal attack on Feb. 22.

Ambassador Luca Attanasio, his bodyguard Vittorio Iacovacci and their WFP driver Mustapha Milambo were all killed during a botched kidnapping on a road in eastern Congo, as they were heading to visit a U.N. humanitarian project at a nearby school.

An important transport artery in the region, the road didnot require U.N. agencies to use armed escorts, according to adesignation by the U.N. Department for Safety and Security.

However, the number of people kidnapped for ransom in the area had more than doubled to 28 over the last year, and Italian media have questioned why security was not beefed up for Attanasio's trip.

Italian prosecutors have opened an investigation into the murders and recently interviewed a number of WFP staff members.

Being placed under investigation does not imply guilt and does not mean that charges will necessarily be brought.

The WFP's deputy director of communications, Greg Barrow, said the Rome-based agency was cooperating willingly with investigations into the attack.

"WFP hopes that the perpetrators of this heinous criminal act will swiftly be brought to justice," he said.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Mark Potter)