Aid agency MSF suspends work in eastern DR Congo

GOMA, DR CONGO (AFP) - Doctors Without Borders said Sunday (Feb 17) it had suspended non-essential work in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after gunmen abducted two of its local staff earlier this month.

The agency, known by its French-language acronym of MSF, told AFP it was acting after the Feb 8 incident in the Masisi health zone in North Kivu province.

"Out of concern over the safety of its teams, Doctors without Borders has decided to cut back its staff on site," said MSF spokeswoman in DR Congo, Francine Kongolo.

"The organisation will nevertheless continue to provide emergency care at Masisi's main hospital," she added.

"This measure comes after the abduction on Feb 8 of two local MSF agents by unidentified armed men," she added.

Cosmas Kangakolo, administrator in the Masisi territory, told AFP that for him, MSF had taken the action to force local people to better assure the safety of their staff.

Masisi lies some 100 kilometres (60 miles) northwest of North Kivu's provincial capital of Goma.

Armed groups in this troubled province frequently abduct foreigners and Congolese nationals working for aid organisations.

Mineral-rich eastern DR Congo has been torn by armed conflict fuelled by ethnic rivalries and territorial disputes, for more than 20 years.

MSF won the Nobel peace prize in 1999 for providing medical aid in troublespots around the world.