Armed fighters from the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Mai Mai militia group have attacked an Ebola treatment centre as the country struggles to contain the worst outbreak of the disease in its history.
The attackers stormed the medical facility in Butembo on Saturday, killing a policeman before being repelled by security forces, Reuters reports. The centre was also torched by an unknown group of assailants last week prompting Medecins Sans Frontieres to cease its operations in the area.
Butembo Mayor Sylvain Kanyamanda Mbusa said police officers successfully fought off the militants. “Because of previous attacks, a security system was already in place and attackers were quickly confronted by the police officers guarding the centre,” he said. One of the attackers was wounded during the incident and has been taken into custody.Nearly 600 people have been killed in the outbreak in northeastern DR Congo. It’s by far the country’s largest-ever Ebola outbreak and the world’s second biggest Ebola epidemic ever recorded, behind only the West Africa outbreak of 2014-16. Foreign governments have withdrawn diplomatic personnel from DR Congo out of fear for their safety.
Efforts to combat the spread of the disease are being hampered by numerous militia groups operating in the area. The current outbreak is of the Zaire Ebola virus, the most deadly strain and the same one that affected West Africa.
The Mai Mai take their name from the Swahili word for ‘water’ because some of their fighters believe magic can turn bullets into liquid.