FACTBOX-Zimbabwe's war veterans, Mugabe's shock troops

Fri Apr 4, 2008 12:27pm EDT

April 4 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's liberation war veterans, loyal backers of President Robert Mugabe, said on Friday claims of election victory by the opposition MDC were a "provocation against freedom fighters."

Below are some details about the war veterans.



* The veterans came to the fore in the late 1990s when the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association forced Mugabe's government to pay a huge one-off gratuity to those who fought in the country's liberation war which ended in 1980.

The government later introduced a pension scheme for them.



* They are estimated to be around 30,000 strong and often act alongside the ruling ZANU-PF party's youth brigades -- known commonly as "green bombers" because of the military style clothes they wear.



* Human rights groups and the opposition MDC have charged that the war veterans had intimidated voters at each election since 2000 -- an accusation denied by Mugabe and his government.



* The war veterans spearheaded the seizure of white-owned farms, which began eight years ago. Human rights groups have accused veterans of occupying farms and assaulting farm owners and workers.



* Since 2000, war veterans leaders have repeatedly said they will use violence to prevent the MDC to come to power. Mugabe says the MDC is a stooge of Britain, Zimbabwe's former colonial master. Source: Reuters (Writing by Marius Bosch)



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