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Politically Motivated Attack On Zimbabwean Villagers Said To Leave 11 Dead

Post-election violence in Zimbabwe intensified late Monday as soldiers and self-styled liberation war veterans attacked four villages near Chiweshe in the constituency of Mazowe North, Mashonaland Central Province, killing 11 people and leaving more than 20 others seriously injured, according to opposition sources.

These sources said the attackers were led by a recently elected member of parliament for the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe, Cairo Mhandu, a recently retired soldier. Sources informed on conditions in Chiweshe said soldiers continued to go door-to-door in the area on Tuesday beating suspected opposition members.

Similar attacks were said to have taken place in the Shamva North and Mount Darwin East constituencies, also in Mashonaland Central. VOA was unable to confirm reports of eight deaths in Shamva North from attacks on members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which posted major gains in elections March 29.

In the Maramba-Pfungwe constituency of Mashonaland East, a mother was said to have collapsed and died on Monday as she watched ruling party militia members beat her son. In Hwedza, Mashonaland East, activists were severely beaten at Mwai Farm and the ZANU-PF militia was said to be denying them access to medical attention.

Sources said soldiers and militia members were torturing opposition supporters at the Nembudziya business center in Masvingo Province, where a camp has been set up.

Reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reached MDC member Gilbert Kagodora who said he was on his way to Chinehasha village near Chiweshe to remove three bodies from homes there and to evacuate the injured. In an interview he confirmed that a total of 11 people had died in the violence around Chiweshe.

Senior members of the army and war veterans were warning, meanwhile, that the violence is set to escalate. These sources said members of the army and war veterans have established camps on farms to train ZANU-PF youth in military tactics.

Such camps have been set up in Murewa and Mutoko in Mashonaland East and Shamva in Mashonaland Central. Army sources said top army and police officials in the past week have been moving from one camp to another telling junior officers to be ready to defend Zimbabwe against the allegedly Western-backed opposition.

Sources told VOA that such an indoctrination team was in Gweru, capital of Midlands Province, on Tuesday. Army sources said most of the soldiers deployed to date have carried out reconnaissance and more will be fielded before the presidential run-off election the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has called without setting a date.

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of first-round front-runner Morgan Tsvangirai told VOA that the opposition knows about the camps and would issue a statement about them on Wednesday.

Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association Chairman Jabulani Sibanda told VOA's Blessing Zulu that his organization is not involved in such operations.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum released a report on political violence on Tuesday, charging that ZANU-PF has mounted a “countrywide terror campaign” which mainly targets rural dwellers thought to have voted for the opposition.

It said a “substantial number of senior army officers are the main organizers of this campaign,” and war veterans and youth militia members are “the main instruments of terror.” Local ZANU-PF party organizations are also involved, the group said.

The report said the terror campaign is intended to “ensure that in the event of a run-off in the presidential election people will be too frightened to vote for the opposition.”

The Human Rights NGO Forum said that between election day on March 29 and April 18, 323 “casualties of post-election retribution” had been examined and treated, and that 18 people remained hospitalized with fractures and soft tissue injuries.

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