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Ex-general whose brigade carried out Zimbabwe massacres dies

July 29, 2020 GMT

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Perrance Shiri, a former Zimbabwean military general who commanded a brigade accused of ethnic killings in the 1980s, has died, the country’s president said Wednesday. He was 65.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa did not mention the cause of Shiri’s death, but described the lands and agriculture minister as “longtime friend and colleague,” and “a true patriot.”

As commander of the Air Force of Zimbabwe, Shiri also was an instrumental player in a 2017 coup that forced out former long-serving authoritarian president, the late Robert Mugabe.

Mnangagwa, who was Mugabe’s deputy before the coup, retired Shiri from the military and made him lands and agriculture minister after the coup.

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But Shiri is known more for being the commander of a ruthless military brigade trained by a group of North Korean instructors and formed to crush a supposed rebellion in the western Matabeleland region in the 1980s.

A report by the Catholic Commission on Peace and Justice in Zimbabwe said about 20,000 people died in the massacres between 1983 and 1987. Many were buried in shallow, mass graves. The victims included children, pregnant women and elderly people.

As security minister at the time, Mnangagwa oversaw and publicly endorsed the campaign. As president, he has promised to have mass graves exhumed and victims reburied. He also has held meetings with civil society groups in the region as part of a so—called national healing and reconciliation process.