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Zimbabwe Opposition Death Toll Reaches 48 As More Slain Activists Found

The number of Zimbabwean opposition members slain in political violence since the country's March 29 elections rose to 48 on Thursday, said the embattled Movement for Democratic Change party of presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai.

MDC officials said their tally of dead activists rose after villagers in the Uzumba and Maramba-Pfungwe constituencies in Mashonaland East province discovered three more bodies of opposition members believed to have been murdered recently.

An MDC official said police in the town of Mutawatawa confirmed the deaths, adding that the bodies had been taken to the mortuary at Mutawatawa Hospital.

Elsewhere, the family of another slain MDC activist, Tonderai Ndira, said authorities at the mortuary in Parirenyatwa Hospital, Harare, told them they had been ordered not to perform a post-mortem on the victim. Ndira's family said hospital workers told them an order from above prohibited all autopsies at the hospital until further notice.

The slain man's family vowed to engage legal council to compel a post-mortem before burial services which informed sources said were likely to be held Saturday.

A source in Mashonaland East said violence continued to mounts in that province in spite of calls from officials of the ruling ZANU-PF party for an end to attacks.

The source said MDC Mashonaland East Provincial Treasurer Shepherd Jani was abducted from his home in Murehwa early Thursday by armed men thought to be members of the ZANU-PF youth militia, and remained missing.

In Chiweshe, Mazowe Central constituency, Mashonaland Central province, a source said seven ZANU-PF militia members armed with guns and axes forced villagers to a ruling party political meeting in Munjeri village early Thursday where opposition backers were beaten and forced to confess their political allegiance.

Sources in Manicaland said an MDC driver and seven others were kidnapped and tortured on Wednesday by war veterans who seized their vehicle and handed them over to police at the Mutasa district council station. The victims were accused of illegally possessing firearms, the sources said.

Mashonaland East MDC Organizing Secretary Piniel Denga told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the party has not been able to remove injured activists from Uzumba and Maramba-Pfungwe as the militia has sealed off those areas.

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