HARARE, Zimbabwe – Dozens of helmeted riot police on Friday raided Zimbabwe’s opposition party headquarters, seizing computers, ransacking offices and arresting hundreds of activists as President Robert Mugabe’s crackdown against his political foes intensified.
Witnesses said police carried off two busloads of activists, most of whom had taken refuge in the dingy downtown office building after being beaten and tortured by ruling party militias in recent days. The police carried out simultaneous raids on the home and office of the head of an election-observer mission that concluded Mugabe was defeated in the March 29 presidential vote.
The morning raid brought the brutal government crackdown unfolding across Zimbabwe’s battered countryside into the heart of the capital, and it came a day after the top U.S. envoy for Africa asserted that Mugabe had lost the election outright and should leave office after 28 years in power.
Official results of the presidential vote have yet to be released, though Mugabe’s ruling party lost the parliamentary election and has acknowledged getting fewer votes than opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. The only question is whether Tsvangirai won the majority needed to avoid a runoff election.
In the increasingly violent limbo, Mugabe’s security forces and party followers have rampaged across Zimbabwe, burning homes and beating opposition activists from the Movement for Democratic Change, who have been streaming into the capital in search of protection.