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Zimbabwe Political Violence Continues - 2001-12-24

In Zimbabwe, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says three more of its supporters have been killed in the last three days. Human rights groups in the country say, so far this year, more than 45 MDC supporters and officials have been killed.

Officials of the opposition party blame the youth militia of the ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe for the three killings. They say one of the victims, Milton Chambati, 45, was beheaded in public after being stabbed to death. Another victim, Titus Nheya, was a candidate for parliament in last year's national elections, when he unsuccessfully challenged President Mugabe's sister, Sabina.

Police have confirmed only the death of Mr. Chambati and deny that he was beheaded. The police say he was killed in a brawl between supporters of the ruling party and the opposition party, the MDC. There has been no government confirmation of the other two deaths.

Political analysts say there have been reports of violence in many places in Zimbabwe in the past two weeks by youths. Members of the youth militia recently underwent paramilitary training at camps run by the ruling party.

At the ZANU-PF annual congress earlier this month Mr. Mugabe vowed to crush the Movement for Democratic Change. He described the opposition party as a terrorist organization funded by American and British political groups that wanted to overthrow his government.

Human rights groups say there have been more than 5,000 incidents of political violence since parliamentary elections last year. Many of the incidents took place at white-owned commercial farms that have been invaded by militant groups loyal to Mr. Mugabe.

The Zimbabwe government says it is seizing virtually all the 4,500 white-owned farms to resettle poor people.

Meanwhile, Nigerian president Olesugun Obasanjo who was due in Zimbabwe Monday for talks with Mr. Mugabe, has postponed the trip because of the assassination of his justice minister, Bola Ige. No new date has been set for the visit. There has been speculation that the Nigerian leader was going to raise with Mr. Mugabe the concern of the 54-nation British Commonwealth about human rights in Zimbabwe.