Armed assailants attacked an Ebola treatment center in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday, setting off a fire and becoming embroiled in an extended gun battle with security forces, health officials said.
The identity and motive of the assailants were unclear. Aid workers have faced mistrust in some areas as they work to contain an 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.
The health ministry said in a statement that 38 suspected Ebola patients and 12 confirmed cases were in the center at the time of the attack. Four of the patients with confirmed cases fled and are being looked for, it said.
In a statement released by the Ministry of Health, Mr Kalenga condemed the “destruction by malicious individuals of the Katwa Ebola Treatment Centre”.
He added: “It is unacceptable that anyone should attack both weak, sick people and health workers who are themselves members of this community.”
Four patients confirmed as having Ebola and six patients suspected of having the disease had been in the care of Katwa CTE, one of two the health zones in the town of Butembo.
None of the patients who have been accounted for were injured, nor were any staff members, the ministry added.
French medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which runs the center together with the ministry, condemned the “deplorable attack” and said its efforts were focused on the immediate safety of patients and staff.