8 members of Ebola aid team massacred in Guinea
(CNN) — They were traveling to raise awareness about the spread of the deadly Ebola virus. Instead, they encountered violence.
Eight people on an Ebola team were killed in southeastern Guinea, near the country’s border with Liberia, a government spokesman said Thursday. Among them were health care workers and local journalists.
Residents in the small town of Womey threw stones at the Guinea Ebola team when they arrived earlier this week, forcing them to flee, spokesman Albert Damantang Camara said.
Some members of the group were able to safely reach the nearby town of Nzerekore, he said, while nine others went to find refuge around Womey.
Only one of the nine was found alive, hiding near the town.
The Guinean government has strongly condemned the killings and vowed to hunt down those responsible and bring them to justice. Camara said security forces have been deployed to support the ongoing investigation, and six people have been arrested in connection with the incident.
The fight against the spread of the Ebola virus “should be an opportunity for Guineans to set aside their differences and stand welded in this national effort,” he said.
This is not the first time violence has flared in West Africa amid the deadliest Ebola outbreak on record.
There have been other reports of teams from Medecins Sans Frontieres, the Red Cross and local ministries of health being pelted with rocks as they try to enter areas affected by the virus, MSF’s Dr. Marc Forget told CNN.
Earlier in the outbreak, a team from Medecins Sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors Without Borders, had to stop working in Guinea because local residents believed they had brought the virus with them.
In August, Ebola patients were forced to flee a health care facility in Monrovia, Liberia, as it came under attack by armed assailants. No one was injured in the attack, but the men stole mattresses and equipment, Liberian National Police spokesman Sam Collins said.
“It was an attack from people afraid of Ebola,” Collins told CNN. “Everybody is afraid.”
The outbreak, primarily spreading in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, has killed more than 2,600 people. Health officials have said the number of Ebola cases is growing too fast — that they need more supplies, more health care workers and a better system to trace the virus.
President Obama recently announced that the United States will be sending troops and materials to build field hospitals, as well as additional health care workers and medical supplies to the region.
Maj. Gen. Darryl Williams, the U.S. Army-Africa commander, will lead the U.S. military’s response — officially called Operation United Assistance. He arrived in Monrovia two days ago with a 12-person assessment team, Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said Friday.
The assessment team will be “evaluating what our deployed U.S. military personnel will need in terms of support infrastructure to sustain the operations for up to six months or however long U.S. military assistance is required,” Kirby said.
Both he and President Barack Obama have said the Department of Defense is prepared to devote up to $1 billion in resources to fight Ebola, saying it’s a matter of national security.