File picture: Pixabay

Cape Town - Mozambique police officers have been implicated in the killing of an observer in the run-up to the October 15 general elections, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday.

Five alleged police officers in a car shot and killed the director of a local non-governmental organization who had just left a training session for election observers in the southern town of Xai-Xai on Monday, HRW said.

"The apparent involvement of police in killing an election observer is a chilling development that casts a dark shadow over the Mozambican elections," said HRW southern Africa director Dewa Mavhinga.

National police spokesman Orlando Mudumane told the human rights watchdog that police were investigating the killing.

The car carrying the killers sped away after the incident, soon overturned and crashed, killing two of the alleged perpetrators, according to Mudumane.

A third man was receiving medical treatment after police officers detained him, while two others fled the scene.

Four of the five men have been identified as members of the national police force, Mudumane told HRW.

Police have meanwhile suspended two senior officers over the killing, pending investigations.

Mozambique is set to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on October 15, amidst a climate of political tension and violence.

Various human rights groups have already reported abuses during the campaign phase, including violations of the right to peaceful assembly, attacks on opposition members and arbitrary arrests of opposition candidates.

While the poverty-stricken country's brutal civil war ended in 1992, Mozambique has been marred by frequent outbreaks of civil conflict as Renamo, the former rebel group-turned-main opposition party, accuses the ruling Frelimo party of political and economic exclusion. 

dpa