Zimbabwe official injured in shooting

Air Force Commander Perrance Shiri was shot in the arm. President Robert Mugabe says it was an assassination attempt by opposition party members.

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On Tuesday, Zimbabwe's state media reported that Air Force Commander Perrance Shiri was shot and injured by unknown gunmen. This is the first time in years that such a senior official has been targeted and the government has termed the incident an assassination attempt. Other sources claim, however, that the shooting is the result of an internal ZANU-PF party conflict. The attack is expected to worsen relations between Zimbabwe and Botswana as Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, has accused Botswana of training terrorists in an attempt to further destabilize the country, which has been rocked by internal power struggles and a deadly cholera epidemic.

According to Agence France-Presse, Mr. Shiri – a Mugabe loyalist who sits on the joint operations command that advises the president – was shot on Saturday.

News of Shiri's shooting was kept secret until Tuesday, reports ZimbabweJournalists.com, the news website of the Association of Zimbabwe Journalists.

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According to the South Africa Press Association, Shiri "is one of the most feared soldiers in the country, having been commander of the Fifth Brigade, the North Korean-trained army that is blamed for the massacre of 20,000 mostly civilians during the 1980s Matabeleland disturbances."

According to the BBC, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had claimed that the joint operations command, with which Shiri serves, was responsible for violent attacks on its supporters before June's presidential runoff. The Zimbabwean military denied the accusations.

Mr. Mugabe's government has claimed that the attack is an attempt to destabilize Zimbabwe, reports the BBC.

However, Reuters Africa reports that the Mugabe government has been known to accuse the opposition MDC of terrorism when under pressure.

According to ZimbabweJournalists.com, the shooting could have resulted from an internal ZANU PF conflict.

Those who believe that the attack on Shiri stems from an internal party feud see the assassination attempt as a follow-up to the mysterious death of ZANU-PF national political commissar Elliot Manyika on Dec. 6. Mr. Manyika's family alleges that his death resulted from party politics. According to The Zimbabwe Guardian, Mr. Manyika was killed in a car crash.

The Shiri incident is expected to worsen relations between Zimbabwe and Botswana. Last month, Mugabe accused Botswana of training MDC party workers to carry out attacks that would destabilize the government, reported ZimOnline.

On Monday, Botswana rejected claims that it was training MDC members in an attempt to facilitate regime change, reports The Harare Tribune.

This attack comes at a time when the MDC says the Mugabe government is planning to impose a state of emergency in Zimbabwe, reports the South Africa Press Association.

The Christian Science Monitor reported that the country is also embroiled in a cholera crisis that threatens to destabilize the entire region.

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