Zimbabwe’s post-election crisis escalated Friday as heavily armed riot police raided the headquarters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change formation led by Morgan Tsvangirai, locked in a standoff with President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party over the outcome of the March 29 presidential election.
Authorities also raided the offices of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, cited on Thursday as a key source of information backing up the statement by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer that Tsvangirai was the "clear" election winner.
Opposition sources said police arrested about 100 party officials, staff and supporters and removed hundreds of others seeking refuge at MDC offices after fleeing violence in rural areas where a campaign of intimidation, beatings and murder is being pursued by alleged ruling party youth militia members, war veterans and soldiers.
A police spokesman said the raid by an estimated 200 police officers was carried out in search of the perpetrators of violence in Mutoko, Mudzi and other rural areas.
Harare correspondent Irwin Chifera of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe briefed reporter Carole Gombakomba on the raid and subsequent developments on Friday.
Tsvangirai MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told reporter Ntungamilk Nkomo that the raid, a replay of a similar operation in March 2007, was a form of harassment by the ruling party though this time in an environment which is more deadly.
MDC Vice President Thokozani Khuphe told reporter Sithandekile Mhlanga that those arrested included 70 women and 25 children who were sleeping in party offices.
Meanwhile, a family from Muzarabani, Mashonaland Central Province, told VOA that they escaped an early morning attack Friday by ZANU-PF militia and headed for the MDC headquarters only to learn that it had been raided by police.
capital and what they hoped would be the safety of Harvest house only to learn that the MDC headquarters had been raided by police.
Correspondent Sylvia Manika of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported.
The offices of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network were also raided Friday by police who said they were looking for subversive documents. The raid occurred at approximately the same time as the one on the MDC headquarters.
ZESN Chairman Noel Kututwa told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the government is trying to intimidate all democratic forces before a presidential runoff election.