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Ebola Outbreak November Review

Posted on in Ebola, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone title_rule

As of the end of 27 October 2014, a total of 13,703 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of EVD have been reported in six countries: Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Spain and the United States of America. The figure of confirmed, probable and suspected EVD cases includes cases in previously affected countries: Nigeria and Senegal. A total of 4,922 deaths have been reported. The death rate in the current outbreak has risen to 70 percent from the previously estimated mortality rate of 50 percent.

EVD transmission remains persistent and widespread in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with World Health Organization (WHO) officials particularly concerned about the spread of the disease in the capital cities – Conakry, Monrovia and Freetown – where people are able to freely move across borders. All administrative districts in Liberia and Sierra Leone have now reported at least one confirmed or probable case of EVD since the outbreak began. According to WHO officials, “new cases continue to explode in areas that looked like they were coming under control,” noting “an unusual characteristic of this epidemic is a persistent cyclical pattern of gradual dips in the number of new cases, followed by sudden flare-ups.” While some regions in these countries have seen the number of EVD cases either stabilize or decrease, this does not mean that the regions are Ebola-free.

Countries with localized transmission, including Mali, Spain and the United States, are currently continuing to monitor potential contacts. On 23 October, Mali confirmed its first EVD case, a 2-year-old girl who died on 24 October.

On 21 October, the single patient with EVD in Spain tested negative for the disease for a second time. Unless a new case of EVD arises during this period, Spain will be declared Ebola-free 42 days after the date of the second negative test. In the United States, two health-care workers have tested negative for Ebola for the second time. They have both been discharged from hospital. Another health-care worker remains in isolation and is receiving treatment. WHO officials declared Senegal and Nigeria Ebola-free on 17 October and 20 October respectively.

The BBC has launched an Ebola public health information service on WhatsApp. The service will provide audio, text message alerts and images in order to help people living in West Africa get the latest public information on how to combat the spread of Ebola in the region. Content will be limited to three times per day and the service will be available in both French and English. To subscribe to this service, add +44 7702 348 651 to your contacts then send ‘JOIN’ to the number via WhatsApp. To unsubscribe, send ‘STOP’ via WhatsApp to the same number. Due to the large volume of requests, the BBC has warned that it may take a little time to be added or removed from the service.

Affected countries currently fall into three categories:

  1. Those with widespread and intense transmission: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone;
  2. Those with either an initial case or cases, or with localized transmission: Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain and the United States
  3. Those countries that either neighbour or have strong trade ties with areas of active transmission: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, South Sudan and Togo.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified three patterns of transmission:

  1. In rural communities, which is facilitated by strong cultural practices and traditional beliefs;
  2. In densely populated urban communities;
  3. Cross-border transmission



  1. Countries with Widespread and Intense Transmission


Guinea currently has 1,906 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of EVD and 997 deaths.  While cases of EVD transmission are the lowest in Guinea, transmission across the country continues to be of concern and is being driven by transmission in four key areas:

  • The capital city Conakry – Over the past week, there have been six new confirmed cases of Ebola reported in Conakry. The capital city remains a key area of concern with the nearby district of Coyah reporting 8 new confirmed cases.
  • N’Zerekore – Located south-east of Macenta, the district of N’Zerekore reported 10 new confirmed cases over the past week.
  • Keouane – Transmission remains strong in this district, with 22 new confirmed cases in the last week, effectively continuing a rapid three-week growth in new cases.
  • District of Macenta – The most intense transmission in Guinea is occurring in and around Macenta, which is located in the south-west region of Guinea, near the border with Liberia. Over the past week, the district reported 15 new confirmed cases. Transmission in this district has remained intense for the past 10 weeks.

The outbreak’s epicentre Gueckedou has reported few new cases over the past 7 weeks, with 3 confirmed new cases in the past week, however transmission persists. In contrast to the situation in Liberia and Sierra Leone, several areas in Guinea have not reported a single case of Ebola while seven areas have not reported any new cases over 21 days after reporting an initial case/cases.

Two new districts in Guinea reported a case or cases of Ebola for the first time in October. In the eastern region of the country, on the border with the Ivory Coast and on a major trade route with Mali, the previously unaffected district of Kankan reported 1 new confirmed case. In the central region of the country, the previously unaffected district of Faranah reported 1 confirmed case of Ebola. Faranah borders the newly affected Sierra Leonean district of Koinadugu to the southwest.   The central district of Mamou is currently classified as unaffected.

Land borders with Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone have been closed. Health screenings at all border crossings have been set up and all travellers displaying a fever, or EVD-like symptoms, will be subject to quarantine and/or denied entry/exit, from the country. Expect to experience delays at land border crossings. Enhanced screening measures have been introduced for outbound passengers at Conakry airport.



Liberia has 6,535 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of EVD and remains the worst affected country in the current outbreak. The country has reported 2,413 deaths.  All administrative districts in Liberia have now reported at least one confirmed or probable case of EVD since the outbreak began.

The most intense transmission continues to occur in the Montserrado area, where in the past week, 30 new probable cases were reported. This area includes the capital city, Monrovia. While the weekly increase in new cases in this area appears to have halted since mid-September, underreporting of cases remains to be an issue across the country, especially in Monrovia, and therefore it is difficult to capture an accurate picture of the current situation. Beyond the capital city, most new reported cases have occurred in the districts of Bong, Margibi and Bomi, which over the past week have each reported 12 probable cases. The district of Grand Gadeh, which previously was considered the only unaffected area in Liberia, now has 2 confirmed and 2 suspected cases of EVD. It must be noted that these new cases may have not occurred in the past week and that reporting of these cases was delayed.

Since 20 August, a state of emergency has been in place, with security forces enforcing a nationwide curfew. Between 11PM and 6AM every night no movement is allowed anywhere in the entire country. Liberian authorities have set up road blocks in a bid to restrict movement around the country while security forces have been deployed in order to enforce quarantine for certain areas, including Lofa county. In Monrovia, the army and police have sealed off the neighbourhood of West Point with the area being placed under quarantine. There have been a number of outbreaks of violence, with civilians rioting at hospitals and attacking health workers.

All borders of Liberia have been closed, with the exception of major entry points, including the Roberts International Airport and James Spriggs Payne Airport. The Bo Waterside Crossing to Sierra Leone remains closed along with the Foya Crossing to Guinea. Any remaining border crossings may be closed with minimal notice. The Liberia Airport Authority has introduced enhanced screening measures for both inbound and outbound travellers at airport facilities.

The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has established hotlines for the public to get basic information on Ebola: Call 0770198517 or 0777549805 or 0886530260 or 0886549805.

General medical facilities throughout the country are currently under severe strain as a result of the Ebola outbreak. Dedicated healthcare facilities for Ebola are overwhelmed and may not accept further cases.


Sierra Leone

EVD transmission remains intense across Sierra Leone, with 5,235 confirmed, probable and suspected cases and 1,500 deaths. All districts in Sierra Leone have now reported at least one case of EVD.

Over the past week, the capital city Freetown reported 63 new confirmed cases and remains one of the country’s worst affected areas. The western rural region of the country reported 81 new cases over the past week, effectively making it the sixth consecutive weekly rise in the number of new cases in the area. The western districts of Bombali, which confirmed 56 new cases in the past week, and Port Loko, with 47 confirmed new cases, continue to be seriously affected by the outbreak. EVD cases in the district of Tonkolili are of increasing concern as over the past week the area reported 36 confirmed new cases. The neighbouring regions of Kenema and Kailahun reported 13 and 5 new confirmed cases respectively over the last week and remain amongst the worst affected areas of the country.


  1. Countries with Initial Case/Cases or Localized Transmission


Five countries – Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain and the United States – have reported a case or cases of EVD imported from a country with widespread and intense transmission.


On 23 October, Mali confirmed its first EVD case. The patient was a 2-year-old girl who had travelled from the Guinean district of Kissidougou with her grandmother to the city of Kayes, located 600 kilometres (375 miles) from the Malian capital, near the border with Senegal. She had travelled by bus via the capital city Bamako, where she stayed for ten days in the Bagadadji neighbourhood. The patient was symptomatic for much of the journey. On 22 October, the patient was taken to Fousseyni Daou hospital in Kayes, where she died on 24 October.

Currently 82 contacts – 57 in Kayes and 27 in Bamako – are being monitored by officials and efforts to trace additional contacts are on-going. At the time of the confirmation of the first EVD case in Mali, a WHO preparedness team was deployed in the country to assess Mali’s state of readiness for an initial Ebola case. The team was immediately redirected to provide support and expertise to Malian health authorities and to help with contact tracing and the training of healthcare workers.

In the wake of the first confirmed case of Ebola in Mali, neighbouring Mauritania has implemented some border controls. 


On 20 October 2014, the WHO declared Nigeria Ebola-free after six weeks of no new reported cases. For officials to declare the country Ebola-free, Nigeria had to make it 42 days with no new cases, which is double the incubation period, verify that it actively sought out all possible contacts, and show negative test results for any remaining suspected cases.

Nigeria had a total of twenty cases after a Liberian-American man flew into Lagos International Airport on July 20 and collapsed shortly afterwards. The disease later spread to Port Harcourt.

While Nigeria has been declared Ebola-free, Nigerian authorities are preparing for any additional outbreaks as the current Ebola epidemic in West Africa is far from over and spread to additional countries, including to Nigeria, remains possible.


On 17 October 2014, the WHO declared Senegal Ebola-free. The assessment was made after the West African country went forty-two days without reporting any new cases. In late August, Senegal confirmed one case of Ebola, an imported one from Guinea, which prompted officials to monitor seventy-four contacts of the patient and increase surveillance at the country’s entry ports.


A single case in Spain tested negative for EVD on 19 October. A second negative test was obtained on 21 October. A total of 83 contacts are currently being monitored. If no new cases are reported, Spain will be declared Ebola-free 42 days after the date of the second negative test. 

United States

There have been four confirmed EVD cases and one death in the US. Two health-care workers have now tested negative for Ebola twice and have been released from hospital. Another health-care worker has been placed in isolation in New York and is receiving treatment. Of 176 possible contacts, 92 are being monitored and 84 have completed the 21-day monitoring period.


  1. Preparedness of Countries to Rapidly Detect and Respond to an Ebola Exposure

The WHO has identified fifteen countries that neighbour countries that either are experiencing widespread and intense EVD transmission or have strong trade and travel ties with countries with current widespread and intense transmission. These countries are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, South Sudan and Togo. The WHO has assessed that Mali and the Ivory Coast are currently at the highest risk of importing the disease.

The WHO and its partners are currently working with these countries in order to help increase their level of preparedness in the event of exposure to EVD. Teams have already been deployed to the Ivory Coast and Mali, where they have been working with health authorities, and over the next week a mission will be deployed to Guinea Bissau. In the remaining countries, WHO teams and partners are working with local authorities to help identify any gaps in their capacity to identify and respond to an initial EVD case.

Ebola Outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

As of 26 October 2014, there have been 67 cases (38 confirmed, 28 probable, 1 suspected) of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The test results for the one suspected case are not yet known. This includes eight cases amongst healthcare workers. In total, there have been 49 deaths reported, including eight healthcare workers. All suspected cases have now been either laboratory confirmed or discarded.

Of a total of 1,121 total contacs, 1,116 have now completed a 21-day follow-up. On 10 October, the last reported cases tested negative for the second time and was discharged. The DRC will thefore be declared Ebola-free 42 days after the date of the second negative test if no new cases are reported. The current outbreak in the DRC is unrelated to that affecting West Africa.



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Deadly Ebola Virus Spreads to Liberia and Mali

Posted on in Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone title_rule

The first cases of the Ebola virus have been confirmed in Liberia, after spreading from neighboring Guinea, where the deadly virus has already killed eighty-four people.  Meanwhile in Mali, officials are on high alert after three suspected cases were reported near the border area with Guinea.

Fears Virus Has Spread to Mali

Officials in Mali on Thursday indicated that they had detected three suspected victims of the Ebola virus, the deadly disease that has killed 84 people in Guinea.  Speaking to reporters in Bamako, Mali’s Health Minister Ousmane Kone stated that “three suspected cases of hemorrhagic fever have been detected in the country.  Samples have been taken and sent abroad for analysis.”  The Health Minister added that pending results from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where the samples were sent, the patients were isolated and were receiving appropriate medication.  A statement issued by the government has indicated that the patients’ condition was currently improving and that the results of the tests will be made public as soon as they are known. 

Ebola Outbreak Confirmed in Liberia

Seven new patients has brought the total suspected Ebola cases in Liberia to fourteen.  Since reporting its first case of the hemorrhagic fever last month, six people have died, however officials in Liberia indicated Thursday that the first suspected Ebola case is now thought to be unconnected to the ongoing epidemic in neighboring Guinea, noting that the case may have originated separately within its borders.

According to Liberia’s chief medical officer Bernice Dahn, “we have a case in Tapeta where a hunter who has not had any contact with anyone coming from Guinea got sick,” adding “he was rushed to the hospital and died 30 minutes later.  He never had any interaction with someone suspected to be a carrier of the virus and he has never gone to Guinea.  This is an isolated case.”  If confirmed, the case in the eastern town of Tapeta would mark a worrying development in the fight against Ebola, as cases so far have been attributed to people returning with the infection from neighboring Guinea, where 84 people have died.  Tapeta, a small town in the eastern country of Nimba, is located 400 kilometers (250 miles) from the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak in southern Guinea.  It is also at least a five-hour drive and much further from the border than other suspected cases.

Of the six deaths, two were laboratory-confirmed Ebola cases – a woman who died in hospital in the northern county of Lofa and her sister who visited her.  The sister was allowed to return home to Monrovia before being hospitalized in the nearby Firestone Hospital.  Local authorities had isolated her and were monitoring her, her family and others with whom she may have had contact however Mr Dahn has since indicated that “…after being confirmed Ebola virus positive, the lady died this morning.”  He added that “we are now keeping surveillance on 44 people who have been in contact with the cases reported.”  The fruit bat, which is thought to be the host of the highly contagious Ebola virus, is a delicacy in the region that straddles Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with experts suspecting huntsmen to be the source of the outbreak.

Guinea Outbreak

The outbreak in Guinea had initially centered in the country’s remote south-eastern Forest Region of Nzerekore, where it took officials six weeks to identify the disease, effectively allowing it to spread over the borders and into the more populous regions of the country.  The first symptoms experienced were of a feverish sickness and they were observed on February 9.  The mysterious disease claimed at least 23 lives, out of a total of 36, before officials were able to identify it.  Since then, the outbreak has continued to spread, with officials confirming last week that it had spread to the capital, Conakry, which is a sprawling city of two million.

On Sunday, Guinea’s Health Ministry indicated that the country was now dealing with 122 “suspicious cases” of viral hemorrhagic fever, including at least 80 deaths.  However not all of the cases have been confirmed as the Ebola virus.  Medical Charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has since stated that the Ebola outbreak in Guinea is “unprecedented,” adding that the spread of the disease across the country made it very difficult to control.  Guinea is now facing a battle to contain the outbreak after cases were reported in areas that are hundreds of kilometers apart.

Regional Concern

Over the past weekend, there has been a growing concern that the outbreak of the deadly virus may spread throughout West Africa.  According to Tarik Jasarevic, spokesman for the WHO, up to 400 people are identified as potential Ebola contacts in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Fears of the virus spreading further into West Africa prompted officials in Senegal to close the country’s normally busy border with Guinea.  Senegal’s Health Minister Awa Maria Coll-Seck confirmed Monday that the government had decided to close its border with Guinea after receiving confirmation that the virus had reached the country’s capital city Conakry.  According to Ms Coll-Seck, Senegal has also “…closed all weekly markets, known as luma, in the south.  And we’re having some discussions with religious leaders regarding big religious events.”

Officials in Sierra Leone also reported last week some suspected cases of the Ebola virus however these have not yet been confirmed.

The Ebola virus, which is one of the world’s most virulent diseases, was first discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1976.  The DRC has since had eight outbreaks of the disease, with the most recent epidemic, which occurred in the DRC between May and November 2012, infecting 62 people and leaving 34 dead.  Although there have been previous outbreaks amongst humans in Uganda, the Republic of Congo and Gabon, the disease had never before been detected in people in West Africa.  There have also been fears that the disease could one day be used in a biological weapons attack as, according to researches, the virus multiplies quickly, overwhelming the immune system’s ability to fight the infection.

If all cases in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Mali and Liberia are confirmed to be Ebola, this outbreak would be the most deadly epidemic since 187 people died in Luebo, in the Congo’s Kasai Orientale province in 2007.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), to date, no treatment or vaccine is available for Ebola, which kills between 25 and 90 percent of those who fall sick, depending on the strain of the virus.  The Zaire strain of Ebola, which has a 90 percent death rate, is the one that has been detected in Guinea.

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ICC Makes 2011 Arrest Warrant Public; Guineans Await Election Results

Posted on in Africa, Guinea, Ivory Coast title_rule

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has released an arrest warrant for Ivorian ex-minister Charles Ble Goude pertaining to charges over war crime allegations.  According to the ICC, he is wanted for alleged crimes against humanity which occurred during the violence that erupted following the 2010 disputed elections in the Ivory Coast.  Meanwhile in Guinea, the country’s President has called on the opposition to accept the results of Saturday’s vote.  While the provisional results have yet to be announced by the country’s electoral commission, security in the capital city has increased as the atmosphere has been tense.


ICC Makes 2011 Arrest Warrant Public

While the Ivory Coast’s Charles Ble Goude, 40, has denied leading pro-Laurent Gbagbo militias in the violent attacks that occurred shortly after the 2010 elections, the ICC has indicated that Mr. Ble Goude, who is currently detained in the Ivory Coast, is suspected of murder, rape, persecution and other inhuman acts that were committed between December 2010 and April 2011.  During that time, some 3,000 people lost their lives in the crisis after ex-President Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat.  Judges in The Hague have stated that forces loyal to former President Gbagbo targeted civilians who backed his opponent, the Ivory Coasts current President Alassane Ouattara.  Although the arrest warrant for Mr. Ble Goude was issued in December 2011, it has only now been made public and it describes the Ivorian ex-minister as a member of Mr. Gbagbo’s “inner circle.”

Following the post election violence, Mr. Ble Goude spent more than eighteen months in hiding.  He was arrested in January 2013 in Ghana and extradited to the Ivory Coast, where he also faces war crimes charges.  He has previously stated that as head of the Young Patriots group, he had only organised rallies and meetings and that he never ran a militia.  Mr. Ble Goude, who was placed under United Nations sanctions in 2006 for allegedly inciting attacks against UN personnel, has indicated that he is prepared to go in front of the ICC in order to clear his name.

Ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, 67, was arrested in 2011 and is currently awaiting trial, on four charges of crimes against humanity relating to the election violence, at The Hague.  The former president’s wife, Simone Gbagbo, has also been indicted by the ICC however the Ivory Coast’s ministers have voted to dismiss the ICC warrant and have instead indicated that they will try her in the country’s own courts.


Tensions Increase as Guineas Await Election Results

On Wednesday, in the midst of security being increased throughout the capital city amid fears of violence, Guinean President Alpha Conde urged party leaders to accept the results of the September 28 legislative polls.  While the results have not yet been confirmed, the President has praised the vote, calling it the dawn of democracy in the West African state which has been chronically hit with instability.  During Conde’s speech, which marked the 55th anniversary of Guinea’s independence from France, the President stated “I would like to say how proud I am…of your amazing mobilization to make these legislative polls a real success.”  The 75-year-old added that the election “has allowed us to take another step on the path to democracy.”  However while the president has urged for calm as the election results begin to trickle in, the country’s main opposition parties have already stated that the elections were rigged.  On Tuesday, Guinea’s electoral commission released some partial and provisional results.  Although full provisional results had been due to be released on Wednesday, officials indicated late on Tuesday that tally sheets were still being transported from polling stations.

On Wednesday, police and military reinforcements were visible on the streets of Conakry, with barricades being set up around the headquarters of the electoral commission.  Despite the independence day bank holiday, an increased number of shops and market stalls remained shut as the atmosphere continued to be tense.


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Guinea’s Long-Delayed Elections Set to Take Place September 28

Posted on in Guinea title_rule

Guinea’s long-delayed legislative elections, which were scheduled to occur on Tuesday, have been postponed by four days to September 28 after talks were held on Saturday in Conakry between the opposition and the government.  The talks over the weekend come after Guinea’s main opposition leader threatened to call protests if officials went forwards with the elections without fully addressing the complaints pertaining to preparations.  The opposition has complained that the voter list contains a number of errors, effectively meaning that many of its supporters have been left off the list while some people have been registered several times.  It has also complained that polling stations in oppositions strongholds have been scattered far apart, meaning that voters would have to travel far and therefore would be less likely to vote.  Following Saturday’s talks, Cellou Dalein Diallo, the main opposition leader, has stated that although he wants a longer delay in order to fix the issues, he is satisfied with the compromised date of September 28.

The elections are meant to complete the country’s transition back to civilian rule however they have been repeatedly delayed since current President Alpha Conde was elected three years ago.  These delays have effectively created doubts about the political progress not only amongst Guineans, but investors and donor.  The West African nation’s economic growth forecast has been cut to 2.9 percent for this year, down from 4.5 percent.  This is a result of the protests and ongoing political issues.

Over the past several months, dozens of people have been killed in protests over the election preparations.  Furthermore, while this delay will allow organizers to address some of the issues, it is likely that the fundamental lack of trust between between the two sides and the election commission will continue, meaning that tensions are likely to simmer.

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Fighting Erupts in Guinea While the Body of a French Hostage is Flown Home

Posted on in Africa, Guinea, Mali title_rule

At least sixteen people have been burned alive or hacked to death with machetes, while dozens more have been wounded after two days of ethnic clashes took place in Guinea.  Meanwhile in Mali, the body of French hostage Philippe Verdon, who was kidnapped in Mali in 2011 and found dead several weeks ago, has been flown back to Paris on Wednesday after tests confirmed his identity.

The violence in the West African state broke out in the southern forest region early on Monday when petrol station guards from the Guerze tribe in the town of Koule beat to death an ethnic Konianke youth whom they had accused of stealing.  Fighting rapidly spread to the nearby provincial capital of N’Zerekore, which is located 570 kilometers (350 miles) southeast of Conakry.  Several homes have been destroyed as a result of the fighting.  According to Alert Damatang Camara, who is a government spokesman, “the violence recorded since Monday in Koule, and then in N’Zerekore, has left 16 people dead and some 80 wounded.”  He further indicated that security forces have been deployed “en masse” to the affected regions and that calm was beginning to return to the streets.  During a televised address to the nation, Guinea’s President called for calm and unity and has promised to bring those behind the violence to justice.

A number of witnesses have reported that members of the Guerzes and Koniankes tribes have been attacking one another with machetes, axes, sticks, stones and firearms, and that some of the houses and cars in the region had been set on fire.  Communal violence has been common in the region, which is located near the border with Liberia, where clashes between the two tribes regularly break out over religious and other grievances.  The indigenous Guerze are mostly Christian or animist, while the Konianke are Muslims who are considered to be close to Liberia’s Mandingo ethnic community.  During Liberia’s civil war, which concluded in 2003, rebels fighting the forces of then-president Charles Taylor drew much of their support from the Mandingo community.  The Guerze, who are known as Kpelle in Liberia, were generally considered to be supporters of forces who were loyal to Taylor who was jailed last year for “aiding and abetting” war crimes in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

According to sources on the ground in Paris, France, relatives and loved ones of Mr. Verdon gathered in a private room at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport in order to retrieve the body, which was flown back on an Air France plane that landed around 0700 GMT.  The French foreign ministry had announced on Sunday that Mr. Verdon’s body had likely been found at the beginning of July.  This is months later after the 53-year-old’s captors had announced in March that they had killed him, however at the time, officials in Paris had never confirmed his death.  On Tuesday, the French president’s office confirmed that the body found in northern Mali was that of Mr. Verdon, however no information surrounding the details of his death have been released.   An autopsy has been scheduled in order to determine exactly how he died.  Mr. Verdon was known to have suffered from an ulcer and tachycardia when he had left for Mali in 2011.  According Pascal Lupart, head of a support committee for Mr. Verdon, “for us, its possible that Philippe died because of his illnesses and that AQIM used this and staged a killing.”

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