Zimbabwe’s president has escaped injury after an explosion at a stadium where he was addressing a rally, in what state media are describing as an assassination attempt.
Emmerson Mnangagwa has vowed that the “cowardly act” will not derail next month’s historic election – the first since long-time leader Robert Mugabe stepped down.
He said the object had “exploded a few inches away from me, but it is not my time”.
One of Zimbabwe’s two vice presidents, Kembo Mohadi, suffered a leg injury in the blast, which happened in Bulawayo.
The country’s environment minister, deputy speaker of parliament and several security personnel were also among the injured.
Footage posted online showed the president waving to the crowd as he turned to step off the podium and walked into the open-sided VIP tent, where the explosion happened seconds later.
People were seen ducking and screaming as smoke billowed through the stadium – with state television immediately cutting the broadcast.
No groups have come forward to say that they were behind the explosion so far.
Bulawayo is Zimbabwe’s second-largest city and is traditionally an opposition stronghold.
The blast happened just hours after a similar attack in Ethiopia during a rally for the country’s new prime minister. An attacker threw a grenade towards the stage where he was sitting – killing one person and injuring at least 83 others.
Presidential spokesman George Charamba told The Zimbabwe Herald that an investigation had been launched and said there had been “multiple attempts” on Mr Mnangagwa’s life over the years.
This afternoon, as we were leaving a wonderful rally in Bulawayo, there was an explosion on the stage. Several people were affected by the blast, and I have already been to visit them in the hospital.
— President of Zimbabwe (@edmnangagwa) June 23, 2018
Mr Mnangagwa later visited those who were injured in the blast at the local hospital.
Speaking hours after the explosion, the president said: “The campaign so far has been conducted in a free and peaceful environment and we will not allow this cowardly act to get in our way as we move towards elections.”
The president has joked about the attempts on his life while on the campaign trail.
Mr Mnangagwa came to power in November after former ally Robert Mugabe stepped down under military pressure.
The transfer of power began when Mr Mnangagwa was sacked as Mugabe’s deputy and said he had to flee the country immediately as his life was in danger.
The election on 30 July will be the first without Mr Mugabe in the southern African nation since independence in 1980.
The British Embassy tweeted: “There is no place for any form of political violence in Zimbabwe. We want to express our sympathy and concern for all those who have been injured.”
More from Emmerson Mnangagwa
The US Embassy also condemned the attack on Twitter and said “political violence in any form is unacceptable” and contrary to the progress needed to move the country forward and “take its place on the global stage”.
American officials have said a credible vote is the only way international sanctions can be lifted.
Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, live text commentary on BBC Sport website & highlights at 22:30 BST on BBC One
England manager Gareth Southgate has told his players to “create their own history” as they seek the win over Panama that will send them into the last 16 of the World Cup.
Southgate is aware of England’s poor recent record in major tournaments, but says his youthful squad can leave that behind and write new chapters of their own in Russia.
England face Panama in Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday knowing victory will mean their final Group G game with Belgium will decide who tops the section.
The Three Lions have not gone past the quarter-final stage of a World Cup or European Championship for 22 years.
Southgate said: “Past history is not important for this team. They have an opportunity to create their own history. They should be excited about that.
“They’re a young team who will get better and better. I enjoy working with all of them and I’m intrigued to find out how far they can go and how well they can play.”
England trained in the mild climes of their Zelenogorsk base on Saturday morning before flying into the searing heat of Nizhny Novogorod, where temperatures were as high as 32C.
Panama took the opportunity to train in the heat in the spectacular Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, before Sunday’s kick-off at 15:00 local time (13:00 BST) – but Southgate insists England have not made a mistake by declining to acclimatise.
He said: “We never train at the stadium before any of our qualifiers. It’s also fairly typical for most of the teams when they play in the Champions League.
“When I came to the Fifa workshop they were quite keen for teams not to train at the stadiums to protect the pitches.
“It makes sense to train earlier in the day, recover and travel. It’s about the flow of the day to leave maximum time for physical recovery.
“The heat is different in different parts of the country. There is no physiological benefit to train in the heat for a couple of weeks before and thinking there will be an adaptation.
“We are a team who keeps possession and in the heat that will be key as to when we need to attack with the ball or rest with possession.”
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson said: “It’s just the basics really. Hydration is the most important thing, taking on plenty of fluids before, during and after the game. That is the key thing.”
Southgate also said there was no complacency in England’s camp or approach, even though they will be overwhelming favourites to beat Panama, who lost their opening game 3-0 to Belgium.
“We’ve seen already the difficulty big countries, in terms of rankings, have had in terms of breaking down lower-ranked teams. That’s been a theme throughout so there will be no complacency in the way we’ve prepared for the game,” he said.
“The situation in the group is a healthy one for us, but we have to focus on our performance. I always talk to the players about what we can control – our preparation, how we want to attack the game.
“We want to play in the style we played coming into the tournament. We’re a team who are hungry and want to improve.
“We have technically good players who we want on the ball and expressing themselves, as we did the other night against Tunisia. Equally we have to play with intelligence and keep improving. They are the things that are important.”
Southgate touched again on the debate over the team-sheet that was pictured in the hands of assistant Steve Holland in training and appeared to show Raheem Sterling and injured Dele Alli replaced by Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
He said: “If the opposition have your team in any sport, that’s a competitive advantage, but it’s not the job of the media to protect that. The other day was a list of 23 players and people have taken something from it which probably isn’t correct. But no drama.”