WASHINGTON - Seven United Nations peacekeepers were killed during an operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Wednesday along with an unknown number of Congolese military forces during an operation in North Kivu province, where international health workers are battling an Ebola epidemic, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Thursday.

“Our peacekeeping colleagues tell us that six peacekeepers from Malawi and one from Tanzania, who were part of the UN peacekeeping operation in the DRC were killed yesterday in Beni territory in North Kivu,” Dujarric said. “This is the area where there is an Ebola outbreak and insecurity has been an obstacle to the response to the outbreak.”

Dujarric said initial reports indicate that another 10 peacekeepers were wounded, while one more is missing. Several soldiers from the Congolese armed forces were also reportedly killed or wounded during the operation.

The peacekeepers were killed during a joint operation carried out by the UN peacekeeping mission and the Congolese armed forces against the Allied Democratic (ADF) rebel group.

UN officials have warned for weeks that fighting in North Kivu was hampering an international response to the Ebola outbreak, which has infected around 300 people and killed nearly two-thirds of them, according to the Congolese Ministry of Public Health.

AFP adds: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the killing in a statement and called on armed groups to disarm immediately.

Six peacekeepers from Malawi and one from Tanzania were killed during the operation Wednesday against rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group blamed for a series of attacks.

The ADF, operating in North Kivu province near the Ugandan border, has been blamed for the deaths of hundreds of civilians since 2014 as well as of 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers last December.

The UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO has about 17,000 troops and police.

Six peacekeepers from Malawi and one from Tanzania were killed during the operation Wednesday against rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group blamed for a series of attacks.