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Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Urges Deployment of UN AND SADC Observers

Zimbabwean opposition leader and presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai, burying an official of his Movement for Democratic Change who was abducted and murdered in the ongoing wave of election-related violence in the country, called Wednesday for the immediate deployment of United Nations and regional observers.

Addressing mourners at the funeral of MDC Mashonaland East Provincial Treasurer Shepherd Jani, abducted and killed recently by alleged ZANU-PF youth militants, blamed the ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe, for what many observers charge is a state-backed campaign of political terror.

Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe covered the funeral in Murehwa and told reporter Carole Gombakomba that mourners were clearly in shock and unable to conceal their apprehension of deadly violence.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour condemned the political violence in Zimbabwe and called for an investigation. She said Wednesday that although it is difficult to obtain precise information on the range of violence or the number of politically motivated killings, there "appears to be an increasing pattern of people being targeted for politically motivated assassination.".

Those observing the violence that has become widespread since the country's March 29 elections said the pattern of abuses has changed from indiscriminate beatings and sometimes killings of rural residents suspected of having voted for the opposition, to abductions followed by the murders of targeted opposition party organizers.

Jani and Tonderai Ndira were among the most recent victims. The two were taken from their homes, murdered, and dumped in Goromonzi, Mashonaland east.

Another opposition member, Dereck Sora, was abducted Tuesday from his home in Chihuri village, Shamva North constituency, Mashonaland Central, by suspected state security agents. Sources said his whereabouts and condition were unknown.

Zimbabwe Peace Project Chairman Alois Chaumba told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that he believes the shift in violence has occurred because ZANU-PF is anxious to avoid scrutiny by international observers, but wants to pursue a campaign of terror.

Meanwhile, sources said ZANU-PF militia members on Wednesday attacked Kodzwa village in the Mazowe Central constituency of Mashonaland Central province, leading the residents to fight back in self-defense. They said police were called in and an army helicopter hovered as more than 20 opposition members were arrested.

Mazowe Central member of parliament Shepherd Mushonga told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the ZANU-PF government sought to instill fear in the people of Chiweshe by sending in an army helicopter.

Amnesty International in an annual report issued Wednesday classified Zimbabwe with Iraq and Myanmar or Burma as a “human rights flashpoint” needing immediate action.

Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan said Zimbabwe and other such countries must close the gap between promises on rights and performance.

The human rights watchdog said in its review of 2007 that human rights in Zimbabwe continue to be violated, charging that state agents including the police restrict freedom of association, torture, and abduct opposition members and civic activists.

Amnesty International Zimbabwe specialist Simeon Mawanza told reporter Patience Rusere that conditions in Zimbabwe have continued to deteriorate in 2008.

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