Hundreds of Zimbabweans seek refuge at US embassy

About 200 Zimbabwean opposition supporters have sought refuge at the US embassy in Harare amid new reports of violence against dissenters.

Loyalists of President Robert Mugabe, whose unopposed re-election last week has been scorned by world leaders, have attacked supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Widespread state-sponsored violence had led the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, to pull out of the presidential run-off on 27 June.

The US ambassador, James McGee, said embassy officials were working with humanitarian organisations to find accommodation for the group. In Washington, the US State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said embassy staff did not see the group as a security risk and that they were outside the security perimeter.

A statement from the MDC said: "There has been a high increase in abductions, beatings and rapes since Zanu-PF claimed it had won the 'election' with a resounding victory."

A group of armed men in army uniforms abducted the opposition lawmaker-elect Naison Nemadziva at gunpoint on Monday and his whereabouts was still unknown, an opposition statement said. Mr Nemadziva defeated a Zanu-PF member in legislative elections on 29 March. He was seized outside the courtroom where a hearing had been scheduled in his opponent's challenge of the election.

Meanwhile, two activists have been freed after nearly six weeks in jail. Annie Sibanda, of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise, said Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu were granted bail. The pair were arrested in Harare on 28 May after holding a peaceful protest and were charged with disturbing the peace and publishing statements prejudicial to the state.

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