Congo rebels kill 15, abduct kids in Ebola outbreak region

In this photo taken Friday, Oct 5, 2018, family members and onlookers mourn over the bodies of civilians killed by The Allied Democratic Forces rebels in Beni, Eastern Congo. (AP)
Updated 21 October 2018
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Congo rebels kill 15, abduct kids in Ebola outbreak region

  • “We condemn this attack,” said WHO’s director-general
  • Allied Democratic Forces rebels attacked Congolese army positions and several neighborhoods of Beni on Saturday and into Sunday

JOHANNESBURG: Congolese rebels killed 15 civilians and abducted a dozen children in an attack at the center of the latest deadly Ebola outbreak, Congo’s military said Sunday, as the violence threatened to again force the suspension of crucial virus containment efforts.
“We condemn this attack,” said the World Health Organization’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Everyone should work on achieving peace and fight Ebola.”
Allied Democratic Forces rebels attacked Congolese army positions and several neighborhoods of Beni on Saturday and into Sunday, Capt. Mak Hazukay Mongha told The Associated Press. The UN peacekeeping mission said its troops exchanged fire with rebels in the Mayangose area of Beni.
Angry over the killings, Beni residents on Sunday carried four of the bodies to the town hall, where police dispersed them with tear gas. Vehicles of aid organizations and the peacekeeping mission were pelted with stones, the UN-backed Radio Okapi reported.
The ADF rebels have killed hundreds of civilians in recent years and are just one of several militias active in Congo’s far northeast.
Late last month, Ebola outbreak containment efforts were suspended for days in Beni after a deadly attack, complicating work to find and track suspected contacts of infected people. Since then, many of the new confirmed Ebola cases have been reported in Beni as the rate of new cases overall has more than doubled, alarming aid groups.
The latest attack comes after two medical agents with the Congolese army were shot dead — the first time health workers have been killed by rebels in this outbreak.
It is a “dark day” for everyone fighting Ebola, Congo’s health minister said late Saturday while announcing the deaths.
Mai Mai rebels surged from the forest and opened fire on the unarmed agents with the army’s rapid intervention medical unit at an entrance to Butembo city, the health ministry said.
The daytime attack appeared premeditated, with civilians present left unharmed, the statement said. The medical agents had been placed in “dangerous zones” to assist national border health officials.
Confirmed Ebola cases have now reached 200, including 117 deaths.
Health workers in this outbreak, declared on Aug. 1, have described hearing gunshots daily, operating under the armed escort of UN peacekeepers or Congolese security forces and ending work by sundown to lower the risk of attack.
Congo’s health ministry has reported “numerous aggressions” against health workers. Early this month two Red Cross volunteers were severely injured in a confrontation with wary community members in a region traumatized by decades of fighting and facing an Ebola outbreak for the first time.
“Health agents are not a target for armed groups,” Health Minister Oly Ilunga said on Saturday. “Our agents will continue to go into the field each day to fulfill the mission entrusted to them. They are true heroes and we will continue to take all necessary measures so that they can do their job safely.”
On Wednesday, WHO said it was “deeply concerned” by the outbreak but announced it does not yet warrant being declared a global emergency. An outbreak must be “an extraordinary event” that might cross borders, requiring a coordinated response. Confirmed cases have been found near the heavily traveled border with Uganda.
In the latest example of the rumors that pose another serious challenge to containing the virus, the health ministry said 22 youth in Butembo dug up the body of an Ebola victim and opened the body bag, “wanting to verify that no organs had been taken from the body by health workers.”
They ended up touching highly infectious bodily fluids, the ministry said. “The next day, they agreed to be vaccinated,” joining the more than 20,000 people who have received vaccinations so far.


Hungary hits Soros, Juncker in new media campaign

Updated 20 February 2019
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Hungary hits Soros, Juncker in new media campaign

  • The campaign provoked a furious reaction from prominent EU politicians
  • EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas dismissed the campaign as "fake news"

BUDAPEST: Hungary launched a new anti-immigration media campaign on Tuesday in which it accused George Soros and EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker of allegedly supporting illegal migration, but which Brussels immediately dismissed as "fake news".
According to the Hungarian government's Facebook page, the media blitz — funded with taxpayers' money — is expected to include billboard posters featuring images of the liberal US billionaire Soros and a smiling Juncker above the words: "You too have a right to know what Brussels is preparing".
"They want to bring in the mandatory settlement quota; weaken member states' rights to border defence; facilitate immigration with a migrant visa," it continues.
The campaign provoked a furious reaction from prominent EU politicians, including from Joseph Daul, president of the European People's Party grouping which includes both Juncker and right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party.
In a series of tweets, Daul condemned the campaign, calling its claims "deceitful, misleading and... not based on facts".
Daul denounced Hungary's attacks on Juncker and defended him as a "true Christian Democrat and a real European leader".
He went on to remind Hungary that "decisions in Brussels, including on migration, are taken collectively by EU governments" and the European Parliament, both of which include Hungarian representatives.
The presence of Fidesz within the EPP has long been a source of controversy but there have been no official moves by any of the other centre-right parties in the grouping to expel it.
Orban's government, which has frequently clashed with the EU on migration, has regularly undertaken similar campaigns in the past, including "Let's Stop Brussels" and "Don't let Soros have the last laugh."
In recent years, Orban has blasted the Hungarian-born 88-year-old philanthropist and investor as a "public enemy" for allegedly backing uncontrolled mass immigration.
At the same time, Orban's government has frequently been accused of using anti-Semitic tropes and imagery in its campaigns against Soros, claims it denies.
In recent months, pro-Orban media have also attacked Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini — the author of a critical report about Hungary that formed the basis of EU legal action against Budapest -- and Juncker's deputy Frans Timmermans.
"Brussels continues to want to support illegal immigration," Zoltan Kovacs, a government spokesman, told reporters in Budapest on Tuesday.
"Hungarians need to know about this, that's why the latest information campaign has been launched," he said, denying it is part of the upcoming European Parliament election campaign.
Kovacs said plans in "drawers in Brussels" included hikes in financial funding of NGOs and the creation of a special migration fund.
EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas dismissed the campaign as "fake news".
"The Hungary government campaign beggars belief," he told a briefing in Brussels.
"It is shocking that such a ludicrous conspiracy theory has reached the mainstream to the extent it has. There is no conspiracy. Hungarians deserve facts, not fiction," he said.