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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Monday 8 March 2004

ZIMBABWE: Cargo plane detained in Harare

JOHANNESBURG, 8 Mar 2004 (IRIN) - Authorities in Zimbabwe have seized a cargo plane allegedly registered in the United States carrying 64 "suspected mercenaries", according to news reports on Monday.

Associated Press (AP) said the Boeing 727-100 was detained on Sunday at the country's main airport in the capital, Harare.

Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mahadi reportedly told journalists at a news conference: "The plane was actually carrying 64 suspected mercenaries of various nationalities. Further investigations also revealed that on board was military material."

Mahadi said further investigations were underway to establish the men's identities and their "ultimate mission".

According to Reuters the plane had been moved to a military base, but it was not immediately clear what had happened to those on board.

US officials said they were not aware of the incident and would try to obtain further information from local authorities, AP reported.

President Robert Mugabe has in the past accused Western governments of supporting the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in a bid to remove him from power. Both the US and Britain have criticised the government's perceived disregard for human rights.

Last week the US announced that it was extending existing sanctions against Zimbabwe to include seven government-related businesses.


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