Thursday, June 05, 2008

Diplomats attacked in Zimbabwe

A serious diplomatic incident is beginning to unfurl in Zimbabwe. Sky News has reported that at least 3 vehicles containing US and British diplomats left Harare after visiting alleged beating victims and were attacked by police and Zanu PF supporters. Sky’s Tim Marshall said they were followed and Zanu PF officials surrounded a building in which some of the diplomats had sought refuge. As armed police arrived some diplomats are believed to have been made their escape by ramming vehicles. A US diplomatic vehicle is said to have run for more than 30 km on flat tires after they were taken out by spikes. According to one of the people in the convoy who spoke to Tim Marshall, 3 vehicles had visited MDC supporters but police arrived and wanted the convoy to accompany them to the police station. The diplomats refused and a Zanu PF truck, not displaying number plates, arrived and blocked the road. The Zanu PF were then assisted by police and an attack on the cars then took place with windows being smashed. At this point the diplomatic vehicles hastily made their escape.

Some reports suggest several diplomats are still being held by Zimbabwean authorities. The Deputy Information Minister of Zimbabwe, Bright Matonga, confirmed that British and US diplomats were stopped but initially gave no further details. He later denied the convoy had been attacked. But a US Ambassador has claimed the British and US convoy was attacked and the White House has called the attack “outrageous”. Caroline Hawley reporting for the BBC in South Africa said that the convoy consisted of several vehicles in which 4 UK diplomats and 10 US staff including 5 US diplomats had been travelling. She said some of the attackers had made threats of burning the diplomats alive. Downing Street in London said it is “very concerned” and a Foreign Office statement is expected soon [CNN]

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