Mozambique map
Mozambique map

MAPUTO, MOZAMBIQUE - Mozambique's opposition Renamo party canceled a planned rally Thursday in the port town of Beira after the shooting a day earlier of a senior official, while the ruling party rejected claims it was behind such attacks.

Manuel Bissopo, the party's secretary general, was shot by unknown assailants in Beira, the second-largest city in the southern African country and his party's stronghold. He was taken to a hospital and his bodyguard was killed, police said.

Renamo's leader, former civil war rebel leader Afonso Dhlakama, put off the planned rally but has not spoken about the attack on Bissopo yet, party spokesman Antonio Muchanga said.

Bissopo was wounded in the leg and arm, he added.

"We condemn the attempt to silence the opposition. It is a deliberate attack on democracy. We want those responsible for the shooting to be brought to justice," Muchanga told Reuters. "They want to perpetuate a single-party system, while the country adopted democracy."

The attackers shot Bissopo moments after he held a news conference to denounce attacks on Renamo members, actions he blamed on the Defense and Security Forces that he said were acting at the behest of the ruling Frelimo party.

Assault rifle used

Police said unknown individuals used an AK-47 assault rifle to fire at close range at the car transporting Bissopo.

"The police are now investigating the case and trying to identify the shooters," a police spokesman in Sofala province, where Beira is located, told Reuters.

Frelimo spokesman Damiao Jose rejected claims that the ruling party was behind the shooting. "Also, we have to say that Frelimo is not engaging in pursuing Renamo members. We play by the rules of democracy; we don't work in the shadows," Jose told Reuters.

More than 2,000 Mozambicans have fled to Malawi to escape fighting between government forces and rebels in the coal-mining province of Tete in the last three weeks, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said last week.