Hundreds of Zimbabwe's "green bombers", militiamen trained to murder and harass President Robert Mugabe's political opponents, have fled to South Africa claiming they have been beaten and starved.
The green bombers, named after the colour of their fatigues, have been blamed for the murders of dozens of officials of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Aid agency workers and human rights groups said the militia was organised to spread terror in rural Zimbabwe. Many of those who fled to South Africa said they were coerced into joining President Mugabe's youth training scheme, while others were lured by promises of regular pay and food.
At four training camps they were indoctrinated with the propaganda of the ruling ZANU-PF party and taught how to kill and maim. "We were told we had to hunt down all MDC people in the villages and given training in frightening them," said "Luke", 15, from Matabeleland, who fled last month. "Sometimes we were given names of people and told to torture and even kill them. We were trained to hurt and kill people who did not support ZANU-PF."
Luke, who was unwilling to give his real name to protect his family, said he joined the training scheme after being promised money and food. But he said: "We were beaten by our instructors and forced to share one small bowl of food among many," he said.