HARARE, Zimbabwe — Government forces opened fire on rioting opposition supporters Wednesday, shattering the fragile peace that had persisted through Zimbabwe’s first election since the fall of Robert Mugabe.
At least three people were killed, police confirmed to the ZBC, Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster. Given that many of the injured were quickly whisked away by protesters, the number of dead could be higher. The number of injured remained unknown.
The sudden outbreak of violence risked derailing an election that was seen by many as a chance for Zimbabwe to emerge from decades of isolation after 37 years of increasingly authoritarian rule by Mugabe.
The conflict began with protests by backers of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) over the delayed release of results from Monday’s election that they believed signaled an attempt by the ruling party to steal victory from their candidate, Nelson Chamisa.
Amid a heavy police presence, the tense atmosphere slipped into violence. Armed with metal rods and rocks, small groups roved downtown Harare, the capital, destroying everything from stoplights to storefronts. Police fired warning shots, water cannons and tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowds.
About an hour later, the army arrived and turned the city into a war zone, firing live rounds indiscriminately into a crowd gathered outside the MDC’s headquarters on Nelson Mandela Avenue in the center of Harare.
In the crowd, a man in a red Chamisa sweatshirt was shot in the arm. A man nearby fell to the ground, gasping and pointing to his abdomen; others removed his pants, revealing that his genitals had been mangled by a bullet.
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