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Harare - Three people were killed in Harare on Wednesday after security forces fired at opposition supporters protesting Zimbabwe's election results, with the ruling party and opposition both blaming each other for the violence.
Soldiers ran through crowds in the Zimbabwean capital, lashing out indiscriminately with their rifle butts at protesters and journalists, while armoured vehicles were deployed and tear gas and live rounds fired.
Angry Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters, who believe the polls were rigged and say their party and its leader, Nelson Chamisa, have won, could be seen burning tyres in the streets and throwing rocks at police.
Police put the number of dead at three and said they were investigating.
"We hold the opposition MDC Alliance and its whole leadership responsible for this disturbance of national peace, which was meant to disrupt the electoral process," President Emmerson Mnangagwa told state broadcaster ZBC late Wednesday.
"Equally, we hold the party and its leadership responsible for any loss of life, injury or damage of property that arise from these acts of political violence, which they have aided and abetted," he said.
Asked to comment on Mnangagwa's statement, MDC spokesman Nkululeko Sibanda told dpa: "Chamisa has not ordered any tanks on the street."
Zimbabwe's electoral body had announced earlier in the day that Mnangagwa's long-ruling Zanu-PF party had won the majority of parliamentary seats in the country's election on Monday.
However, the winner of the presidential vote has yet to be announced.
Prior to the polls, MDC leader Chamisa had threatened not to accept a Zanu-PF victory.
"They're trying to intimidate us," one opposition protester, Tafadzwa Chafaka, told dpa as troops were deployed. "But we are willing to die."
Via his Twitter feed, Mnangagwa had urged everyone to remain calm Wednesday afternoon, even as security forces were cracking down on protesters.
"We must all demonstrate patience and maturity, and act in a way that puts our people and their safety first. Now is the time for responsibility and above all, peace," he said.
But the MDC said the government is using intimidation tactics.
"This vindicates us as the MDC alliance. ... They're trying to cow the people, while they are rigging," said Thabitha Khumalo, an MDC spokeswoman.
"We still maintain that our presidential candidate, Nelson Chamisa, won the election, and we are prepared to protect the people's vote," she told dpa.
On the street Blessing Mukundi, a doctor and MDC supporter, said it was a bad sign that, after a peaceful vote, things had taken a violent turn, as they had in previous elections.
"We are not happy about this because there are soldiers now, some of us were injured," he told dpa. "We are now afraid."
The United States Embassy in Harare said it was "deeply concerned" by the violence, urging "calm on all sides" and advising the armed forces to use retraint in dispersing protesters.
The election had been seen as a pivotal moment for Zimbabwe, with citizens expressing hope for change after years of economic malaise and political oppression under former president Robert Mugabe, who was ousted in a military coup last year.