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 Tuesday, 21 January, 2003, 16:24 GMT
Mugabe party office firebombed
Riot police in Harare
The police blame the opposition
Attackers have thrown petrol bombs at a ruling party office in a suburb of the Zimbabwean capital, Harare.

One person died and seven people were hurt, several seriously, say police.

Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena said about 50 young men drove into Harare's western Kuwadzana township on Monday night, smashing property and assaulting pedestrians before throwing petrol bombs at the offices.

Learnmore Jongwe
Police say the former MP committed suicide in custody
"It's a political attack. We suspect that it is related to the by-election to be held in the suburb," Mr Bvudzijena said.

A parliamentary by-election is expected to take place soon, following the death in police custody last year of an opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) MP, Learnmore Jongwe.

Blame

Police are blaming the attack on opposition supporters and have made 16 arrests.

Zimbabwean women
Zimbabweans are facing famine

Mr Bvudzijena said the attack appeared aimed at "provoking political violence on a wider scale".

MDC officials say it is the work of militant supporters of President Robert Mugabe.

They say Zanu-PF is waging a violent campaign to win the seat in the Kuwadzana constituency by trying to intimidate voters. The MDC won almost all urban seats in parliamentary elections in June 2000.

Widespread political intimidation and persecution of opposition supporters has been reported in recent months.

Torture

Last week, MDC MP Job Sikhala and human rights lawyer Gabriel Shumba said they were tortured by police while being held in police custody.

Both appeared in court over the weekend and were then released on bail.

At a news conference in Harare, Mr Sikhala said he was severely tortured all over his body "for a solid eight hours" including having electrodes attached to his genitals.

"They also used planks to beat under my feet and over the entirity of my body... I am still in pain."

He said he was then forced to drink poison which they said was urine.

Zimbabwe is in the grip of a major food crisis affecting more than half of the country's population.

President Mugabe's government is accused of withholding food aid from opposition supporters.

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  Mp Job Sikhala
"I am still in pain"

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22 Oct 02 | Africa
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