Moise Mamy and his wife, Nowei, in Guinea. Mamy was one of eight people killed while doing Ebola outreach in a rural part of the country. (Courtesy of the Christian Missionary Alliance)

When the Ebola outbreak made a resurgence in Guinea in early August, after earlier showing signs of stabilizing, Moise Mamy knew what he needed to do.

The Guinean pastor had already been traveling from remote village to remote village three times a week to spread awareness about preventing and containing the deadly virus. But as the outbreak flared up again, Mamy and a team of workers from the non-governmental organization Eau de la Vie (Water of Life) began going to the villages five times a week.

The instruction they provided was simple, focusing on washing and water purification practices. But Mamy was convinced that more visits to the isolated areas to was necessary to bring an end to the deadly epidemic.

It was exhausting work, and the team often encountered resistance, Mamy told others; but, he said, it needed to be done.

"This Ebola is a menace that can overrun the country," Mamy warned recently in an e-mail to the leader of a U.S. aid organization.

On Tuesday, Mamy and his team took a truck that was already damaged by rocks that had been thrown at them during visits to other remote villages and drove to Wome, in the forested, southeastern part of Guinea.

This time, they enlisted local officials to help ease the tensions and fear that run rampant in that part of the country, which is near where the deadly outbreak began.

"The meeting started off well; the traditional chiefs welcomed the delegation with 10 kola nuts as a traditional greeting," said a resident who was present at the meeting, a man identified as "Yves" told the Guardian. But a group of young people arrived, Yves said, and they began throwing stones.

Then, some members of Mamy's team were dragged away.

Then, the unthinkable happened.

Eight people, including Mamy, were murdered by a mob -- "killed in cold blood," a government spokesman said. Their bodies were found Thursday, some of them dumped in a septic tank behind a primary school. Three of them, the spokesman said, had their throats slit.

"Many places accepted their teaching," Jon Erickson, a friend of Mamy's who works with the Christian aid organization CAMA Services, wrote in an online posting. "But some villagers had heard a rumor that the [bleach they were distributing], which kills the Ebola virus, was actually the virus itself."

On Friday, six suspects were arrested. Guinean officials are investigating what prompted the attack.

The depths of the fear that could provoke such an attack are hard to understand, but it is partly fueled by the fact that Ebola has hit hardest in Guinea in a remote, conflict-burdened part of the country.

Wome is located in Guinea's forestière region -- a densely forested, mountainous and resource-rich area where villagers have long settled their own affairs.


A man washes his hands at the entrance of the harbor in Conakry. The placard reads: "Beware, Ebola is a reality, take precautions". (Cellou Binani/AFP/Getty Images)

Last year, at least 50 people were burned and hacked to death in ethnic conflicts that erupted in the region, a lingering side effect of the civil war that engulfed neighboring Liberia for 14 years.

People who live in the most rural parts of Guinea forestière are often long distances, by difficult-to-traverse roads, from the nearest large city, Nzerekore. They are even farther from the center of government in Conakry.

"In Guinea forestière, there are a lot of ethnicities, and it’s where a lot of the minerals are,” said Tara Comstock-Green, who works with a conflict mediation non-profit Search for Common Ground, in Conakry. “It’s a region where people are really trying to struggle for power.”

Youths in particular feel isolated and mistrustful of the government and outsiders, said Mike Jobbins, Search for Common Ground's senior program manager for Africa.

"You have a lot of already existing tensions between people who have been living in these communities and more recent outsiders who have come to the country with the mining boom," Jobbins said. "Young people are coming of age into a very desperate economic situation. They don’t have the opportunity to advance themselves; they don’t feel like they're being treated fairly.

"It makes young people much more likely to get involved in the violence."

And then came Ebola -- bringing with it health workers in terrifying moon suits and outsiders, including foreigners, spraying unfamiliar substances.

Last month, in a market in Nzerekore, about 30 miles from Wome, residents panicked when Red Cross workers began spraying disinfectant after a funeral.

"Ebola is a lie!” they shouted. There were reports of gunshots.

"A rumor, which was totally false, spread that we had sprayed the market in order to transmit the virus to locals," said Youssouf Traore, president of the Guinean Red Cross, according to the BBC.

One notable characteristic of this week's gruesome murders in Guinea is that the victims were not foreigners.

Before Ebola became the predominant agenda item for his organization, Mamy, the executive secretary for Eau de la Vie, was a well-known religious leader in the region who helped to build schools as a compliment to the medical care provided at a place called Hope Clinic.

Mamy's visit to Wome this week was not his first, and he was accompanied by local elected officials, health care workers and three journalists, two of whom were from a trusted rural radio news source.

"He was pretty well known and well respected, but it could be they just underestimated the depth of suspicion and fear and anger," said Mike Sohm, president of CAMA Services, which founded Hope Clinic in 2003 before it was turned over to Mamy and a team of Guinean nationals a decade later.

"It’s not that they were unaware of the dangers -- they were willing to take the risk.”

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