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Crackdown on Zimbabwe NGOS Widens; Humanitarian Worker Assaulted

A crackdown on Zimbabwean non-governmental organizations intensified Thursday as police raids on NGO offices and interrogations of civil society leaders were followed by the assault of a humanitarian worker, sending her to the hospital.

The National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations said the employee of Plan International was seriously injured and hospitalized after being assaulted by war veterans in Mashonaland East Province, a focus of post-election violence.

The precise circumstances of the attack could not immediately be determined.

Observers say the governing ZANU-PF party has mobilized veterans of the liberation war and its youth militia to punish rural communities which voted for the opposition in March 29 elections and to prepare the ground for a presidential runoff. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change won control of the lower house of parliament and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai outpolled President Robert Mugabe.

Humanitarian organizations distributing food assistance have been unable to relaunch programs suspended before the March 29 elections due to the climate of violence in rural areas, which have been the primary destinations for food supplies.

Sources in Zimbabwe's NGO community said other organizations based outside the main cities have suspended operations and rights activists have gone underground after receiving threats from state security agents and ZANU-PF militants.

Police are closely scrutinizing operations of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, Action Aid international and NANGO itself. Officials of the groups have been interrogated following raids on their offices in recent days.

Authorities are accusing ZESN of having run afoul of Zimbabwean law by releasing unofficial projections of the presidential election outcome.

National Coordinator Xholani Zitha of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition told reporter Carole Gombakomba that the ZANU-PF government is harassing NGOS in an effort to silence them ahead of what seems likely to be a call for a presidential runoff.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...