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Bomb Destroys Zimbabwe Radio Office

August 29, 2002

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HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) _ A bomb attack Thursday gutted the office of a radio station critical of President Robert Mugabe’s government, and authorities raided a human rights group and a camp for displaced farm workers run by a private charity.

The actions heightened tensions in Zimbabwe, where independent media outlets and opposition activists say they have been subject to attacks by ruling party militants during nearly two years of political unrest.

A security guard said at least two men, one carrying a firearm, on Thursday threw two objects into the office of the Netherlands-based Voice of the People in Harare’s Milton Park suburb, according to police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena.

An explosion was heard and a fire then almost completely destroyed the suburban home that had been converted into an office. No one was in the building at the time, Bvudzijena said.

Computers, recording and editing equipment, files and furniture were destroyed. Bvudzijena said fingerprints collected from the scene had given police a positive lead, but he did not say who was the suspect and no one has yet been arrested.

Voice of the People has been criticized by the government for circumventing a ban on independent broadcasting by sending recorded material in Zimbabwe’s local languages for transmission by shortwave from The Netherlands.

The government has accused the broadcaster and a second shortwave station, SW Africa beamed from Britain, of airing hostile propaganda and stirring political division.

Later Thursday, police raided the Harare office of the independent human rights group Amani Trust, detaining one official and taking away documents compiled on political violence that has left nearly 200 people dead in the past two years.

The trust works with victims of political violence and torture. Trust officials said Dr. Frances Lovemore, a specialist in violent trauma, was taken by police for questioning at the main Harare police station.

State television reported that Lovemore was arrested as part of an investigation into charges that girls and women had been sexually abused by ruling party militants. The charges were apparently made by Lovemore. The government has denied them.

Amani officials said they were concerned about her safety.

In a separate raid, army troops detained 12 people digging sanitary facilities at a camp for workers displaced from seized white-owned farms in the Mazowe district, about 20 miles north of Harare.

``I don’t know why they were taken away or what they will be charged with,″ said the Tim Neill, head of the Zimbabwe Community Development Trust, private charity that runs the camp.

The men, themselves displaced workers, were being held at the police station in the provincial capital of Bindura, he said.

Neill, a clergyman and an outspoken critic of the government, was questioned by police last month for alleged subversive activities but he was released without charge.

His organization seeks to help victims of political violence and farm workers driven off farms seized under a government program to confiscate 95 percent of white-owned land where as many as 300,000 workers live with their families.

It and the Amani Trust have been accused of providing ``safe houses″ for government opponents.

The attack on Voice of the people was not the first on a Zimbabwean media outlet.

The printing presses of Zimbabwe’s only independent daily newspaper were destroyed in a bomb attack in December 2000, days after Information Minister Jonathan Moyo described The Daily News as a threat to national security. No arrests have been made in that bombing.

Earlier this year, the government passed sweeping media control laws and 12 journalists have been arrested for alleged violations.

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