Armed assailants attacked an Ebola centre in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday, setting off a fire and becoming embroiled in an extended gun battle with security forces that has yet to end, the local mayor said.
The identity and motive of the assailants were unclear. Aid workers have faced mistrust fuelled by widespread rumours in some areas as they work to contain the Ebola outbreak.
Dozens of armed militia also regularly attack civilians and security forces in eastern Congo’s borderlands with Uganda and Rwanda, which has significantly hampered the response to the disease.
Wednesday’s attack in the city of Butembo was the second in Congo’s Ebola-hit east.
On Sunday unidentified assailants set fire to another treatment centre in the nearby town of Katwa, killing a nurse.
“After the attack… in Katwa, we decided to reinforce the security of these structures. That is why there is an exchange of fire between the police and the assailants,” Butembo mayor Sylvain Mbusa Kanyamanda told Reuters.
“Elements from the Congolese army have been deployed to contain the situation. As the operations continue, I do not have a casualty toll for the moment,” he said.
The current Ebola outbreak, first declared last August, is the second deadliest of the haemorrhagic fever since it was discovered in Congo in 1976.
It is believed to have killed at least 551 people so far and infected over 300 more.