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 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.
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.