CONAKRY, Guinea — The team of health officials accompanied by journalists came to the village to educate people about how to avoid contracting Ebola. Instead, a group of local residents turned on their would-be benefactors, attacking them with knives and rocks and killing eight of them, witnesses say.
Guinea’s government said in a statement Friday that six people have been arrested in connection with the attack earlier this week on the health and government officials who were doing disinfection and education on prevention methods.
The horrific violence in the village of Womey underscores the mistrust and fear that remains in the area nearly nine months after the first person here died from what was later discovered to be Ebola. The disease that can cause bleeding from the eyes, mouth and ears had never before sickened people in this forested corner of Africa. And when it did, villagers immediately feared that outsiders had brought it here.
There have been attacks on health centers in several affected countries but these are the first fatalities.
“The government strongly condemns the killings of these Guinean citizens including those officials who were carrying out their duties at the time,” the statement issued by the presidency of Guinea said.
“These crimes are especially regrettable coming at a time when the international community is mobilizing to help the affected countries in their fight against the Ebola virus.”
The victims from Tuesday’s attack included the deputy administrative official in Womey and the head of the health care center there. Two top health officials from the nearby town of N’Zerekore were killed, along with a pastor and three radio journalists who had been covering the awareness campaigning. The son of the deputy administrative official managed to escape and survived, the government said.
Doctors Without Borders had to temporarily suspend operations in Macenta, Guinea back in April after a crowd attacked the facility. The mob accused aid workers of starting the outbreak. Some young people threw rocks at the aid workers, though no one was seriously hurt.
More than 2,600 people have died across West Africa from Ebola, including at least 500 people in Guinea.