At least seven UN peacekeepers were killed in clashes with militias in an area at the centre of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s worst Ebola epidemic, United Nations and diplomatic sources said.
“Our peacekeeping colleagues tell us six peacekeepers from Malawi and one from Tanzania, part of the UN peacekeeping operation in the DRC, were killed in Beni territory in North Kivu,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.
Eastern Congo has been plagued by banditry and armed insurrections for more than two decades since the fall of military ruler Mobutu Sese Seko, with a surge in violence around North Kivu over the past year.
Beni and surrounding villages are suffering an Ebola epidemic that infected over 300 people and killed two-thirds of them.
This makes it the third worst outbreak ever, after the2013 to 2016 West Africa outbreak when 28,000 people were infected and in Uganda in 2000, when there were 425 cases.
Repeated armed attacks by at least two rebel groups hamper international efforts to contain the virus by preventing medical workers getting to Ebola victims.
A UN spokesman said Secretary General Antonio Guterres “calls on all armed groups to stop their destabilising activities, which add to the suffering of the population and complicate the response to the ongoing Ebola outbreak”.