An award-winning gynaecologist, Denis Mukwege, renowned for his work for women who have suffered sexual violence, narrowly escaped a murder bid in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a medical source said Friday.
Five armed men in civilian clothes broke into Mukwege's home in the eastern town of Bukavu on Thursday.
"When they aimed at him, somebody burst out and yelled. The armed men turned on that person and shot him dead," Ephrem Bisimwa, who is in charge of communications at the Panzi hospital founded by Mukwege, told AFP.
Mukwege "narrowly escaped" being killed because he was able to flee while the attackers were occupied with the man who tried to raise the alarm, Bisimwa said, adding that the doctor was with two of his daughters and one of their friends when the assault took place.
"The gunmen fled in Dr Mukwege's car, which they swiftly abandoned before hijacking another vehicle. The identity of the armed men and their current location are unknown," stated PMU, a Swedish religious organisation which works with the Panzi hospital.
"All that we know now is that he is well. Obviously, he has been affected psychologically and he will not come to work today. He is trying to understand what happened because we don't know the motive for the attack," Bisimwa said.
Mukwege founded the Panzi hospital and foundation to help the thousands of women who have been raped in the strife-torn east of the DR Congo by local and foreign armed groups, as well as by soldiers in the army. He travels regularly to give talks about the plight of these victims.
His activities have won him several nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. Among other awards, in 2008, he received the UN Human Rights Prize.
According to a UN statement, "an average ten to twelve women arrive at the hospital daily for treatment, many of whom require major surgery. Dr Mukwege describes the sexual violence in the region as a weapon of war, which has destroyed entire communities."
Mukwege has also received the King Baudouin Africa Development Prize, while the Carter Foundation has named him a "citizen of the world".© ANP/AFP