Zimbabwes leading opposition party accused the countrys military, which is loyal to President Robert Mugabe, of plotting an assassination attempt on dozens of its top leaders, including its founder Morgan Tsvangirai.
Tendai Biti, secretary-general for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, said the alleged plan is meant to eliminate his party ahead of a run-off presidential election next month, according to Agence France-Presse.
Although he refused to give details of the plot, which has been denied by Mugabes Zanu-PF party, he did say that there is a group of about 18 snipers from the military intelligence who are assigned to kill the MDC leaders.
They have been killing our people since 1980 and now Mugabes military intelligence has compiled a list of 36 to 40 people to be assassinated, Biti said during his visit to Nairobi, according to AFP on Monday.
Top of the list are our leader Morgan Tsvangirai, myself and our spokesman Nelson Chamisa.
Tsvangirai, who was in South Africa when he was informed of the supposed plot, is reportedly refusing to return home for the time being due to safety concerns. He was scheduled to return to Zimbabwe this past weekend to begin campaigning for the June 27 runoff, but instead will remain in South Africa until security improves.
The MDC leader is the strongest challenger to Mugabes iron-fist rule of the south African country. For 28 years, Mugabe has headed Zimbabwe and turned it from the once so-called breadbasket of Africa to what some now call a basket case.
Zimbabwe has the highest rate of inflation in the world at over 100,000 percent. It also has an unemployment rate of over 80 percent.
Moreover, an estimated 3.5 million Zimbabweans have fled to neighboring South Africa and other countries to escape the hunger and to earn money to send back to family members still living in Zimbabwe.
Under such dire situations, Tsvangirai easily defeated Mugabe for presidency in the first round of voting on March 29. But the election commission said Tsvangirai did not have the needed majority vote to avoid a runoff.
The MDC argues, however, that it received enough votes for its leader to be declared the new president without a runoff. They accused Mugabes party of using delay tactics to launch a campaign of violence and intimidation against opposition supporters.
According to Biti, more than 30 MDC supporters have been killed in post-election violence, as reported by The Associated Press.
As a result, Biti said his party is determined to participate and win the runoff to remove Mugabe from power.
Inside Zimbabwe, the government has supposedly taken the security concerns to heart and called a meeting with several church leaders to help them promote peace ahead of the election runoff, according to the state-run newspaper The Herald.
The Zimbabwe Defense Forces reportedly asked church leaders to urge their congregations to work towards peace, while political parties were asked to also do their part in the anti-violence campaign.
Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri indicated to us that the police met with various groups as well as Zanu-PF and had written to the MDC, indicating that they should refrain from actively encouraging their members to be involved in acts of politically motivated violence," said Bishop Trevor Manhanga, who participated in the meeting, according to The Herald.
Manhanga also recalled Chihuri saying the police could not do anything other than urge political parties to resist violence because they were not in charge of party structures.