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Alleged Zimbabwe Coup Plot Said To Reflect Struggle In Ruling Party

Zimbabwean security authorities Thursday pursued a crackdown on alleged coup conspirators with tension running high in barracks around the country. Military sources said the government of President Robert Mugabe was purging perceived critics with beatings and electric shock torture of those suspected of being disloyal.

Judicial sources said a police affidavit presented to lawyers for six accused coup plotters indicated that authorities are still seeking other suspects.

A source in the ruling ZANU-PF party said the alleged coup plot was an extension of the struggle in the ruling party to succeed Mr. Mugabe, noting that the level of general security has not been raised, suggesting the aim is to "wipe out enemies."

Defense lawyers said security agents have arrested and tortured relatives of the six including Grace Matapo, wife of alleged coup mastermind Albert Matapo.

Police charge that Matapo recruited air force and army members to overthrow Mr. Mugabe in an operation code-named 1940. The coup is alleged to have been planned for 7:40 p.m. - expressed as 19:40 in military time - on Friday, June 15th.

The plan allegedly included distribution by helicopter of fliers announcing the coup. Rural Amenities Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, considered a contender to succeed Mr. Mugabe, was said to have been invited to step into Mr. Mugabe’s place.

Mnangagwa has dismissed these allegations, describing them as "stupid."

Matapo said through his lawyers that he intends to sue the police for wrongful arrest and that the charges against him reflect feuding inside the ruling party.

A bail application for the suspects is expected to be heard in High Court Friday.

Defense lawyer Charles Warara told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that police have indicated that they will oppose granting of bail.

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