Zimbabwe officers `held in coup plot'

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The Independent Online
A NUMBER of senior Zimbabwe army officers have been arrested for allegedly inciting colleagues in the military to join a revolt to overthrow the government, the independent Sunday Standard newspaper reported yesterday.

The Harare-based newspaper, quoting what it described as highly-placed military sources, said 23 officers and men were detained at Chikurubi maximum security prison on 17 December.

No comment was available from the government yesterday and calls to officials were not returned. The Standard said a colonel was among seven officers arrested for plotting against President Robert Mugabe.

The alleged plotters cited Zimbabwe's involvement in the distant Congo war and Mr Mugabe's mismanagement of the economy as their reasons for wanting to take action against the government, the report said. The newspaper said thousands of loyal troops were put on alert hours before army intelligence officers "closed the net" on the disaffected soldiers.

Zimbabwe has 8,000 troops backing Congo's embattled president, Laurent Kabila, in the five-month civil war in the former Zaire.

The government has in recent weeks denied reports of a near mutiny by Zimbabwean soldiers serving in the dense jungles of eastern Congo at the height of the tropical rainy season. Zimbabwe says it has lost 26 troops killed in action in Congo since August and 17 captured by rebels fighting to topple President Kabila.

An independent survey last month by the four main human rights groups showed that 70 per cent of Zimbabweans were against military intervention in Congo and most did not believe the government's official casualty figures.