HARARE - A Zimbabwean military commander and ally of President Robert Mugabe was shot in an assassination attempt at the weekend, state media said yesterday.

Minister of home affairs Kembo Mohadi was quoted in TheHerald as saying the attack that wounded air force commander Perence Shiri on Saturday appeared to be part of attacks against high-profile figures designed to destabilise the country.

The Movement for Democratic Change alleges that Shiri and several military commanders led a violent election run-off campaign in June that its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, boycotted over attacks on his supporters.

"The attack on Shiri appears to be a build-up of terror attacks targeting high-profile persons, government officials, government establishments and public transportation systems," Mohadi said.

Shiri was shot while on the way to his farm. He escaped with a gunshot wound and is recovering at a Harare hospital.

Mugabe's government has in the past accused the MDC of terror tactics as part of a campaign to remove the veteran leader, who has been in power since 1980.

Dozens of MDC members have been arrested on terror charges but have been cleared by the courts. The MDC says Mugabe uses the charges when under pressure, especially from Western foes who are calling on him to step down over a humanitarian crisis. - Reuters

nMeanwhile, AFP reports that the Botswana government yesterday denied accusations by Zimbabwe that it was backing a plot to overthrow Mugabe.

A foreign ministry statement said Zimbabwe's submission "contains nothing more than distorted and, or concocted evidence, none of which is supported by facts".