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Seven peacekeepers killed in clashes near Ebola-hit part of east Congo

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GOMA, Congo (Reuters) – At least seven U.N. peacekeepers were killed in clashes with militias near the east Congolese town of Beni, at the centre of the country’s worst ever Ebola epidemic, United Nations and diplomatic sources said on Thursday.

“Our peacekeeping colleagues tell us that six peacekeepers from Malawi and one from Tanzania who are part of the UN peacekeeping operation in the DRC … were killed yesterday, in Beni territory, in North Kivu,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

East Congo has been plagued by banditry and armed insurrections for more than two decades since the fall of former military ruler Mobutu Sese Seko, but the past year has seen a surge in violence around North Kivu.

Beni and the surrounding villages are also suffering an Ebola epidemic that has infected over 300 people and killed two thirds of them.

This makes it the third worst outbreak ever after a 2013-2016 outbreak in West Africa when 28,000 people were infected and in Uganda in 2000 when there were 425 cases.

Constant armed attacks by at least two rebel groups in the region are hampering international efforts to contain the virus, by preventing medical workers from gaining access to Ebola victims.

(Reporting by Fiston Mahamba in Goma, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations and David Lewis in Nairobi; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Richard Balmforth)

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