5 June 2008

Zimbabwe: American And British Diplomats Attacked By State Agents in Bindura

Another diplomatic incident has been reported in Zimbabwe, this time in the town of Bindura.

According to Mark Weinberg, an official at the American Embassy in Harare, a convoy of American and British diplomats on a fact finding trip to Bindura on Thursday were stopped by a gang of state agents that included police, intelligence agents and war veterans. They were told to go to the local police station, but they refused.

Weinberg said the diplomatic delegation went on its way but were followed. They were stopped at a roadblock by the same gang, who this time had their guns drawn and pointed at the diplomats, as they ordered them to get out of their cars. The gang pulled out knives, slashed the vehicle tyres and detained the delegation for several hours.

According to a BBC report, there were 10 US embassy officials and 4 officials from the UK High Commission on the trip. The US Ambassador James McGee was not involved in the incident, but he is quoted as saying that a Zimbabwean driver working with a US embassy security official was beaten up by the group. The war vets stole a camera and a satellite telephone.

McGee said the incident was 'extremely serious and a violation of all diplomatic protocols'. He warned that the American government would raise it at the very highest levels with the Zimbabwean authorities.

Last month the US Ambassador and a group of diplomats were harassed on a trip to visit victims of violence in the Centenary area outside Harare. Harare based journalist Angus Shaw sees the harassment of diplomats and the ongoing violence, is clearly the Mugabe regime's ongoing vicious clamp down on any democratic space, ahead of the runoff election on June 27.

Shaw pointed to the detention of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Wednesday and the recent imprisonment of South African drivers from Sky News as even more extreme examples of the clampdown. He says the harassment is also a warning to foreign media. Shaw said there are still no election observers on the ground witnessing these events and he believes ZANU-PF is going to go to any length this time, to make sure they claim victory on June 27.

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