Doctors arrested in connection with WHO official’s death

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Three Congolese doctors were arrested for allegedly planning an attack on a hospital that killed a senior World Health Organisation (WHO) epidemiologist involved in the Ebola response, a prosecutor said.

Cameroonian doctor Richard Mouzoko was killed in an attack in April on a hospital in Butembo, one epicentres of the year-long Ebola outbreak, the second deadliest in history.

Ebola treatment centres are repeatedly attacked by armed militiamen and disgruntled locals, hampering efforts to contain the epidemic in Democratic Republic of Congo’s conflict-ravaged east.

Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Baptiste Kumbu, a senior military prosecutor, said militiamen attacking treatment centres had, under interrogation, implicated four doctors in planning the raids, including against the Butembo hospital.

Kumbu said three were arrested, while the fourth was at large. He provided no further details about when or where they were detained or what their motive might have been.

In a statement, the Butembo branch of Congo’s national doctor’s council said it was “indignant” over the arrests, which it said were crippling vital medical services in the area.

It said the doctors should be released on bail and medical personnel would strike within 48 hours if they were not.

Despite deployment of an effective vaccine, Ebola continues to spread in eastern Congo, reaching the region’s largest city Goma last month. The most recent outbreak killed more than 1,800 people since last year, according to Congolese health authorities.

Some people believe Ebola is a conspiracy cooked up by government or foreign countries. The influx of donor money to fund the response has fuelled tensions between rival political leaders and economic operators, leading in some cases to violence.

Kumbu said 54 people are currently under arrest in connection with attacks on Ebola treatment centres.