The UN migration agency suspended screening services for Ebola after three aid workers were killed in South Sudan, the latest incident involving relief staff in the violence-ridden country.
In a statement, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said the workers – two men and a woman – were hit by crossfire during clashes between rival armed groups in central Equatoria.
It said the IOM stopped Ebola screening at five border points between South Sudan, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo, where an ongoing outbreak of the haemorraghic fever killed thousands.
The dead woman’s four-year-old son was abducted with another local female IOM volunteer during the clash, the IOM said. Two other male volunteers were injured, including one recovering from a gunshot wound.
Humanitarian workers are targeted by rebels in South Sudan, in the grip of war that first broke out in late 2013 between soldiers allied to President Salva Kiir and those of his former deputy Riek Machar. Last year, 10 aid workers went missing in Yei, in the same region.
“We reiterate humanitarians and civilians are not and should never be subjected to heinous acts of violence – we are not a target,” IOM Director General António Vitorino said.
It was not clear who was behind the latest fighting.
In the past, government forces clashed with fighters from the rebel National Salvation Front, led by renegade former General Thomas Cirillo Swaka, not party to a peace deal signed last year.
Lul Ruai Koang, government’s military spokesman, said on the day of the attack Cirillo’s fighters targeted a government position and a soldier was killed along with nine from Cirillo’s side.
“If they (National Salvation Front) killed aid workers, I do not know. The attack on our defence positions didn’t involve any humanitarian workers,” Koang said.
The National Salvation Front was not immediately reachable to comment on the killings.