Heavily armed militiamen attacked a hospital treating Ebola patients in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, killing a senior World Health Organisation (WHO) epidemiologist and injuring two others, officials said.
Three assailants from a local self-defence militia attacked the hospital in Butembo, an epicentre of the second-largest Ebola epidemic in the country’s history, said deputy mayor Patrick Kambale.
The outbreak is now spreading at its fastest rate since being declared last August, due largely to attacks by militiamen and others distrustful of the international response.
“The assailants are identified as Mai-Mai rebels demanding the departure of the international community engaged in the Ebola response,” Kambale told Reuters.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus identified the doctor killed as Richard Mouzoko, a senior epidemiologist from Cameroon.
“The @WHO family lost a dear colleague in the hospital attack in Butembo, #DRC, today,” Tedros wrote on Twitter. “We are outraged by the attack. Health workers are #NotATarget.”
Attacks since February against Ebola treatment centres hastened the spread of the virus and led some first responders to pull out of the area.
The assailants are largely unidentified but are believed to be local militiamen and community members who oppose the response efforts. Many believe Ebola is a conspiracy cooked up by the government or foreign countries.
The Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces is believed to have killed 843 people and infected over 450 so far.