A mob of pro-government militants in Zimbabwe has stormed the headquarters of the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). A number of people had to be hospitalized after being beaten up in the attack.

According to MDC officials, a mob of at least 300 people occupied the party headquarters for three hours. Offices were ransacked and staff beaten up. Eyewitnesses say police armed with teargas looked on, as the militants rampaged through Harare streets. Other witnesses reported a motorist was dragged from his car and beaten in front of the watching police.

The attackers were led by Joseph Chinotimba, a former guerrilla war veteran, who has been at the forefront of violence on thousands of white-owned commercial farms throughout Zimbabwe in the past 18 months. Mr. Chinotimba said the raid was to search for a guerrilla war veteran leader who was kidnapped at gunpoint earlier in the week.

Over the past year, MDC offices in Harare and Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second biggest city, have been raided at least 10 times by police or pro-government militants.

The MDC narrowly lost to President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party in last year's parliamentary elections, winning 57 of the 120 seats.

MDC Secretary-General Welshman Ncube says the latest attack shows how the government fails to apply the law equally to all citizens of Zimbabwe. He warns that the country is "regressing into anarchy."

The MDC has also strongly criticized the Zimbabwe government for allowing only military personnel and civil servants to vote by mail in next year's presidential elections.

A senior party official says the new regulation shows that the government does not want a free and fair election. President Mugabe is being opposed by Morgan Tsvangirai, president of the MDC.