Some 200 opposition supporters crowded outside the U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe on Thursday, appealing for protection amid new reports of violence aimed at dissenters against the heavy-handed rule of President Robert Mugabe.
Activists did get some good news: Two women who led peaceful protests against Mugabe were granted bail after almost six weeks in a prison cell.
The U.S., meanwhile, presented a draft resolution at the U.N. Security Council calling for new sanctions against Mugabe and his top aides. It also would demand talks on a coalition government for Zimbabwe, although the opposition leader has ruled that out.
Mugabe's loyalists have been assaulting supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change even after his re-election last week in a runoff scorned by many world leaders. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the vote because of state-sponsored violence during the campaign.
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Fearful people with small bundles of possessions showed up outside the U.S. mission in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, seeking help. Among those in the milling crowd were mothers with small children and an elderly man with a broken leg.
U.S. Ambassador James McGee said by telephone the people came from the opposition headquarters, which had become a refuge. He said embassy officials were working with humanitarian groups to find accommodations.
More than 300 opposition supporters who sought refuge at the South African Embassy last week have been taken to a camp outside the capital.
Reports of violence and intimidation by backers of the ruling ZANU-PF party have been rising as the government tries to quell opposition to Mugabe's rule after years of harsh treatment for his foes and an economic crash that has left the one-time breadbasket short of food.
“There has been a high increase in abductions, beatings and rapes since ZANU-PF claimed it had won the ‘election' with a resounding victory,” the opposition said in a statement.
At least 80 opposition supporters were killed before the runoff, and the opposition says more than 10 have been killed since.