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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Arrested Before Planned Rally

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Zimbabwe riot police arrested the top opposition leader Sunday as they suppressed a planned prayer rally in a crackdown on protests against Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe.

Witnesses said heavily armed police fought skirmishes with rock-throwing opposition supporters in the Harare township of Highfield, where the opposition-aligned Save Zimbabwe Coalition had called for a Sunday prayer rally.

Police arrested Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai and other opposition officials after blocking their motor convoy from driving to the stadium where the rally was to have been held.

"Mr. Tsvangirai has also been arrested. He was arrested as he was driving out of Highfield," an MDC information officer said. "We don't know where he is being held at the moment."

Officials had earlier said Arthur Mutambara, who leads another faction of the MDC, and Lovemore Madhuku of the pressure group National Constitutional Assembly were also detained.

Riot police moved in force early Sunday to head off the prayer rally, which police had said would violate a ban on political protests imposed after opposition supporters clashed with police in Highfield last month.

Organizers had argued that the ban should not apply to a prayer vigil.

Shop owners in the area shuttered stores, while hundreds of people wandered the streets under the gaze of police units.

Witnesses said that later in the day, police had fired tear gas at youths who were throwing stones at their patrols, taunting them and defying orders not move around in large numbers.

"There have been several skirmishes between the police and some youths, people throwing stones, and the police firing tear gas," a Zimbabwean journalist who lives in Highfield said by telephone.