The US military is preparing to withdraw all but 100 of the 2,800 troops it currently has deployed to West Africa in response to the Ebola epidemic, the Pentagon has announced.

In a statement on Tuesday, spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said "nearly all will return by April 30".

US officials said Washington was ready to scale back its five-month mission in Liberia and Senegal in the coming weeks, as officials believed the crisis had largely been contained.

The news came a week after The World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed the number of new Ebola cases had risen for first time in 2015 in all three of the hardest hit countries of West Africa.

In the first week of February, Sierra Leone recorded 80 of the 124 new cases of the disease confirmed; Guinea accounted for 39 cases; Liberia five.

The Red Cross wants to kill us. They put the virus in the water and spray it around the village, or when they take away the sick, the medication they give them contains Ebola.

Lah Wiemou, resident in the village of Ouye, near Lola,

The US development came at the mid-way mark of the Guinea government's 60-day target to eradicate Ebola completely, an aim hampered, said health agencies, by local resistance to containment efforts.

Suspicion of aid workers

Community suspicion of aid workers, the increasing geographical spread of infections in Guinea and the widespread transmission in Sierra Leone remained "significant challenges: to ending the epidemic", the WHO said.

In Guinea, the country where West Africa's Ebola outbreak began, hostility towards aid workers, fuelled by conspiracy theories, continued to undermine efforts to contain the deadly virus.

The market town of Lola has seen new Ebola cases in recent weeks, amid increasing fear and mistrust of health care workers.

"The Red Cross wants to kill us," said Lah Wiemou, an elder in the village of Ouye, near Lola.

"They put the virus in the water and spray it around the village, or when they take away the sick, the medication they give them contains Ebola."

The most severe Ebola epidemic in history has killed nearly 9,000 people in West Africa over the last year, almost 2,000 of them in Guinea.

"They set up barricades to stop us leaving. Some threw large stones that broke the car windshield, and others ran home to get their machetes," said Saa Yola Tolno, a local official in Lola, who accompanied a Red Cross convoy at the weekend.

In Forecariah, a town southeast of the capital Conakry, Red Cross teams were driving unmarked cars, purposely hiding the recognisable logo.

"I think that we should consider ourselves lucky and fortunate if we are able to stop it in 2015," said Birte Hald, who leads the Ebola unit of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

In Liberia, new cases have dwindled to just one or two per day.

Approximately 1,500 US troops have already returned home. Those staying in West Africa will continue to work with Liberia's military and regional partners in to contain the Ebola outbreak.

Source: Agencies