Amnesty International has urged authorities in the Ivory Coast to investigate what it calls an “unprecedented wave of homophobic attacks”, which have forced HIV workers into hiding.

On 25 January, a mob stormed the office of a gay rights group in the country, following days of anti-gay protests in the capital.

They smashed windows and ransacked the office, stealing computers and office supplies, and hospitalised a private security guard.

A previous attack saw the words “No to fags”, spray painted across walls at the gay rights group’s offices, and on 20 January, the house of the company’s director Claver Touré was attacked.

“The only way to stop the unprecedented homophobic witch-hunt taking place in [the Ivory Coast] is for the authorities to investigate the attacks and bring those responsible to justice. Failing to do that will only lead for more violence,” said Gaëtan Mootoo, West Africa researcher at Amnesty International.

Amnesty has said that members of the organisation attempted to contact the police over the attack, but were accused of working as pimps.

The police told those attacked that there were more important issues to be dealt with.

In order to allow those working with the organisation, which is officially recognised and works with the Ministry of Health in the country, to come out of hiding, Amnesty has urged authorities to investigate and work to prevent these sorts of attacks.

The Ivory Coast has not historically had problems with anti-gay violence, and is often a haven for gay people fleeing from violence elsewhere.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement that Ivorian authorities must “act swiftly to protect the activists and their supporters from any further violence.”

It is one of the few countries in Africa that has never criminalised same-sex sexual activity, but it does not recognise same-sex relationships legally, and there is no legal protection from discrimination.