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Zimbabwe's Opposition Leader Escapes Attack - 2004-02-22

Zimbabwe's main opposition leader came under attack from a gang of axe-wielding men late Saturday while traveling about 148 kilometers southeast of Harare. Members of the Movement for Democratic Change say they believe their leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, was unharmed.

Mr. Tsvangirai and his wife Susan were on their way to visit their parents, who are farmers. According to the Movement for Democratic Change, when they stopped to buy a cool drink, their security guards were surrounded.

The MDC said Mr. Tsvangirai and his wife escaped by speeding away in their pickup truck.

Mr. Tsvangirai has been attacked on numerous occasions, and the MDC says he lives in constant danger.

MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyati says Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu PF and the state controlled media continue to "demonize" Mr. Tsvangirai and the MDC every day.

Mr. Nyati said he presumed none in the party had been injured as they had continued their journey. Mr. Tsvangirai's home district is out of range of landlines and cellular telephones.

Meanwhile, the state broadcaster reported Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe had suffered chest pains following a visit to a dusty tobacco farm last week. That was why, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation said, he had not officiated at a state funeral and is resting at his rural home north of Harare, following his 80th birthday party celebrations.

Mr. Mugabe announced Friday that he would retire within five years, but he also said he intends to lead his Zanu PF in parliamentary elections in March 2005. His current six-year term as president ends in 2008.