BENI, Congo — Suspected rebels killed seven civilians in an overnight attack in northeastern Congo, a local official said Saturday, highlighting the threat to efforts to contain the latest Ebola virus outbreak nearby.
The administrator of Beni territory, Donat Kibwana, told The Associated Press the attack was likely carried out by Allied Democratic Forces fighters in Mayi-Moya, about 40 kilometers (24 miles) from Beni city.
Kibwana said it sent the local population fleeing. Such mass displacement complicates health workers’ efforts to contain the Ebola outbreak that has killed 11 people so far in the densely populated region near the border with Uganda.
Global health officials have said they are combating this outbreak in what is essentially a war zone, with multiple armed groups in the mineral-rich region and about 1 million displaced people.
The attack occurred as the World Health Organization’s director-general is visiting the area to see the Ebola response. Vaccinations began Wednesday for health workers and contacts of Ebola victims, and nearly 1,000 people are being monitored.
Authorities say Congo’s military and police presence has been increased, and the U.N. peacekeeping mission is providing support.
Civil society groups are especially concerned about the threat from ADF rebels who have killed more than 1,500 people in and around Beni in less than two years. Residents were shaken by the discovery on Tuesday of 14 bodies of civilians who had been seized by suspected ADF rebels.
Congo’s health ministry has said 48 cases of hemorrhagic fever have been reported, 21 of them confirmed as Ebola. Screenings for the virus are being carried out at the heavily traveled border; officials have said travel restrictions are not necessary.
This is Congo’s tenth outbreak of Ebola, which is spread via contact with bodily fluids of those infected, including the dead. There is no licensed treatment, and the virus can be fatal in up to 90 percent of cases, depending on the strain.
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