200 Seek Refuge at U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe
As the saga of Zimbabwe's widely-condemned elections continues, more than 200 hundred opposition supporters have taken refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Harare, in a bid to remain protected from the state-sponsored, violence that has been levelled against them.
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — About 200 Zimbabwe opposition supporters sought refuge today at the U.S. Embassy in Harare amid new reports of violence against dissenters.
Loyalists of President Robert Mugabe, whose unopposed re-election last week was scorned by world leaders, have attacked supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
Widespread state-sponsored violence had led the party's leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, to pull out of the presidential runoff, leaving the June 27 race to Mugabe.
Today, people with small bundles of possessions milled outside the U.S. mission in the Zimbabwe capital. Riot police appeared there, but police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said they were at the scene only briefly.
U.S. Ambassador James McGee said the group was from the opposition headquarters in Harare, which had become a refuge. He said by telephone that embassy officials were working with humanitarian organizations to find accommodation for the group.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said embassy staff did not see the group as a security risk and that they were outside the building's security perimeter.
More than 300 opposition supporters who last week sought refuge at the South African Embassy in Harare have been taken to a camp outside the capital.
Reports of violence and intimidation against opposition supporters have increased.
"There has been a high increase in abductions, beatings and rapes since ZANU-PF claimed it had won the 'election' with a resounding victory," the opposition said in a statement.
At least 80 opposition supporters were killed before the runoff, and the opposition says more than 10 have been killed since.