A court in Zimbabwe has refused to grant bail to more than 20 white farmers who are accused of attacking land invaders. Violence has spread to other areas of the country since the clash on Monday, with 10 farmers forced to flee with their families and a number of homesteads destroyed.

The farmers, who have yet to be charged, are spending a fourth night in police cells after the court in the town of Chinhoyi, 100 kilometers northwest of Harare, was again not able to deal with their applications for bail.

As happened on Wednesday, militant supporters of President Robert Mugabe gathered outside the courthouse and checked the identification of everyone entering. They refused to let in foreign journalists.

Inside the courtroom the militants chanted political slogans. The farmers, who were handcuffed in pairs and barefoot, are due to appear in court again on Friday.

Relatives say they are becoming extremely worried about the men's physical condition. The wife of one of those held said her husband has been given almost no food in the four days since his arrest and he has been refused extra clothing.

A 77-year-old farmer who collapsed in court on Wednesday with a suspected heart attack is in hospital under police guard.

Violence spread on Thursday to a number of farming areas around Chinhoyi as mobs of land invaders armed with clubs and iron bars forced their way into farmhouses.

The Commercial Farmers Union says shots were fired, a number of farm workers were beaten, and at least 10 farm owners and their families were forced to flee their lands.

Homes, workshops, and barns were looted and wrecked, with one homestead being burned out. Paramilitary police units were called in to restore order.

Government ministers have accused the farmers of starting the violence.