The party of Zimbabwe's prime minister said one of its security officials was beaten by the president's militants Tuesday, and said the attack was part of new violence unleashed because it has stepped back from the governing coalition.
Movement for Democratic Change spokesman Nelson Chamisa said at a news conference that the official was stopped on her way to party headquarters early Tuesday and beaten by four armed men who said they wanted to arrest her. He said the men were militants from President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party. The men fled when a crowd gathered.
The party also has received reports from rural areas of attacks on its supporters, Chamisa said. He also cited a weekend police raid of a house used by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's supporters as part of a campaign of violence and intimidation.
"We expect this to increase and escalate on a national level," Chamisa said at a news conference. "We take this very seriously. We are possibly on the brink of another storm of persecution and intimidation."
Ephraim Masawi, a spokesman for Mugabe's party, denied the allegations, saying they were "cheap propaganda" intended to mask the failure of Tsvangirai's party to explain his decision to withdraw temporarily from the coalition on Oct. 16.
Tsvangirai accused Mugabe's ZANU-PF party of human rights violations and attempting to derail the coalition of longtime rivals that has been troubled since the day it was formed in February.
Tsvangirai has said he will not attend Cabinet meetings until his concerns are resolved. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change has continued to participate in parliament, where it holds a slim majority.
Tsvangirai and Mugabe met Monday for the first time since the withdrawal. Chamisa said the four-hour meeting did not unblock their impasse.
The unity government was formed at the urging of Zimbabwe's neighbors after a series of violence-plagued elections left the country at a political standstill and in economic ruin. Mugabe has been in power since 1980 and has long been accused of using violence to entrench his position.
Foreign ministers from three of the southern African nations that pushed for the coalition _ Mozambique, Zambia and Angola _ were due in Harare Thursday for talks with Tsvangirai and Mugabe to try to revive the agreement.