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Violence Continues Ahead of Zimbabwe Elections


There was continuing political violence in Zimbabwe Friday. Two South African election observers and at least five Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters were injured in an attack on the regional offices of the opposition party. And in a separate incident, the MDC says that party leader Morgan Tsvangirai escaped unhurt when police fired with automatic weapons at a car in which he was traveling.

The two South African observers were holding discussions Friday about next month's presidential election with opposition officials in the MDC office in Kwekwe, 220 kilometers south of the capital, Harare.

Sam Motsunyane, leader of the South African observer mission, told a news conference Friday that the attack was what he termed, "inimical to a free and fair election." He said the attackers were what he called "an amorphous group" and declined to say who they might have been.

"I don't think we can describe - or associate them - with any particular group," Mr. Motsunyane said. "But these must be people who have a grudge against the MDC or something against them."

He said that because they wore no uniforms or identifying marks it was impossible to say who the attackers were.

Learnmore Jongwe, the chief MDC spokesman, says a crowd of at least 200 ruling ZANU PF supporters, armed with clubs and iron bars, attacked the MDC offices, injuring the South African observers and MDC officials.

A vehicle being used by the election observers was extensively damaged in the attack.

The South African observer mission in Zimbabwe has confirmed that two of its observers have been injured and says the circumstances are being investigated. No comment has been made by police or the ruling party.

In January, the MDC offices in the town were badly damaged when a crowd set fire to them.

Learnmore Jongwe says police on Friday morning threw teargas and fired two shots at Mr. Tsvangirai's vehicle while he was on his way to address a rally at Masvingo, 280 kilometers southeast of Harare.

The MDC spokesman says that earlier, police fired teargas at a group of MDC supporters who gathered around Mr. Tsvangirai when he stopped for refreshments. Mr. Jongwe says the police claimed they were breaking up an illegal political meeting.

Mr. Tsvangirai is the main challenger to President Robert Mugabe in the March 9 and 10 election.

Mr. Jongwe says that an MDC activist has died after being beaten up by youth militia of the ruling party at Rushinga, close to Zimbabwe's northern border with Zambia. Police say one person has been arrested following the attack.

Human rights groups say that at least 27 people have been killed in political violence this year, while thousands have been injured.

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