News in Brief 16 May 2017 – (AM) Geneva

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Peacekeepers with the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) on patrol in Bambari. Photo: MINUSCA

“Alarm bells” should be ringing over CAR civilian and UN peacekeeper attacks – Zeid

"Alarm bells" should be ringing that armed groups in Central African Republic (CAR) are targeting and killing civilians in rural areas that have until recently escaped a wave of deadly violence.

The warning, from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, follows reports that more than 121 civilians have been killed since March.

In Geneva, the UN human rights office OHCHR indicated that several parts of CAR have been affected since fighting between rival groups began last November.

Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said that the capital Bangui is potentially under threat too.

"The High Commissioner is warning that the hard-earned relative calm in Bangui and in some of the bigger towns in the CAR risks being eclipsed by descent of some of these rural areas into increasing sectarian violence, with civilians as usual paying the highest price."

One of the most recent attacks happened on 2 May in the town of Niem near the Cameroonian border, where rebels reportedly shot and killed nine men in a church.

Humanitarian operations have also been targeted more than 45 times in the first three months of the year, the UN human rights office says, while the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSCA has also come under heavy weapons fire in the south-east of the country.

Panic blamed for new Mediterranean Sea deaths, says refugee agency

An estimated 20 people are missing feared dead in a new tragedy involving migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea at the weekend.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, said on Tuesday that the victims included women and a child.

They were either crushed or drowned as rescuers helped to evacuate 500 people from four rubber dinghies floating between Libya and Italy.

Here's UNHCR's William Spindler speaking in Geneva:

"It seems that there was a panic or when people on the dinghy saw the rescue boats approaching they rushed and as a result some of them were crushed to death or suffocated; others fell into the sea and drowned."

The migrants were mainly from Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Bangladesh, according to the UN Refugee Agency, which says that more than 1,350 people have died or gone missing trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea so far this year.

DRC Ebola outbreak could lead to more deaths: WHO

A deadly outbreak of Ebola virus in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is "fairly contained" but more victims may yet be found, the UN health agency said on Tuesday.

Of 20 suspected cases in northern Bas Uele province, three people have died and two were confirmed in laboratory tests to have carried the pathogen.

"Every effort" is being made to contain the outbreak, according to the World Health Organization's Christian Lindmeier.

He said that 400 contacts are under surveillance and specialist teams had arrived in the rural region to carry out further investigative work.

"Every effort has to be made to contain it. At this point apart from an additional case announced yesterday we haven't seen any additional cases but with the contact tracing it wouldn't surprise (me) if we find additional cases but to this point it seems fairly contained."

The current outbreak began in late April when a 39-year-old man reported to a health facility with symptoms including vomiting and bloody diarrhoea. He died shortly afterwards.

Tests indicated that blood samples from the outbreak tested positive for the so-called Zaire sub-type of the Ebola virus.

The disease claimed well over 11,000 lives following an outbreak in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone in December 2013.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 3’37″

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