U.S., U.K. Diplomats Attacked in Zimbabwe

U.S. and British diplomats have now been released after their convoy was attacked in Zimbabwe and they were held for over five hours at a roadblock north of the capital.

The attack took place 30 kilometers outside of the capital Harare. The diplomatic convoy was stopped by a mob of about 40 people, believed to comprise elements of Zimbabwe's military, police and the so-called "war vets" who are fiercely loyal to President Robert Mugabe.

Paul Engelstad, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, says a U.S. Embassy staffer was beaten and tires of cars in the convoy were slashed. His was the only injury reported so far.

"The war veterans threatened to burn the vehicles with my people inside unless they got out of the vehicles and accompanied the police to a station nearby," U.S. Ambassador James McGee, who was not in the convoy, told CNN.


U.S. State Department sources told ABC News that five Americans and two local employees of the embassy were held at the road block, along with the British diplomats. Among them were senior diplomats including the top security officer for the U.S. Embassy.

The BBC reported that four British diplomats were involved in the incident.The British Foreign Office has summoned Zimbabwe's ambassador in London to explain the incident, the prime minister's spokesman said.

McGee, who was pressing Zimbabwean officials for his colleagues' release, told CNN that "we do believe this is coming directly from the top." McGee has clashed with Mugabe's regime in the past and has been threatened with expulsion.

In mid-May, McGee had led a similar convoy that was stopped at a police roadblock. Police eventually let the convoy through, and a patrol car escorted them back to the U.S. Embassy.

At one point during the May incident, a police officer threatened to beat one of McGee's senior aides. The officer got into his car and lurched toward McGee after he had demanded the officer's name. The car made contact with McGee's shins, but he he was not injured, according to U.S. officials.

Also Thursday, Zimbabwe's opposition presidential candidate resumed campaigning, the morning after he spent nine hours in police detention near the country's second main city, his party said.

Morgan Tsvangirai said in a statement that the hours he spent in a Bulawayo police station after being stopped at a roadblock while campaigning demonstrate the lengths to which Robert Mugabe was prepared to go to "try and steal" the runoff election.

But police spokesman Bvudzijena said police merely wanted to establish that one of the vehicles in Tsvangirai's convoy was properly registered. He said police had asked only the driver to accompany them from the roadblock to the station, but others in the party insisted on coming with him and waiting while the documents were reviewed.

Human rights activists in Zimbabwe said Thursday that alleged Mugabe supporters petrol-bombed an office of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change in the southern province of Masvingo on Wednesday, killing at least two party officials.

The Associated Press contributed to this report