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Mugabe's Wife Allegedly Attacks Photographer

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HONG KONG — A British photographer said Sunday that the wife of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe punched him repeatedly in the face after he tried to take pictures of her near a luxury hotel in Hong Kong.

Richard Jones told The Associated Press that Grace Mugabe, 43, ordered a bodyguard to hold him down and then attacked him herself on Thursday near the Shangri-La hotel on Hong Kong's Kowloon peninsula.

"She directed several punches into my face," Jones said. "She was wearing diamond-encrusted rings, which caused a lot of lacerations."

Jones, 42, from Machen in South Wales, was on a freelance assignment for London's The Sunday Times.

He said he suffered at least 10 cuts to his face but did not require hospitalization.

"She was screaming, completely crazy," The Sunday Times quoted a witness, Austrian tourist Werner Zapletal, as saying in a report Sunday.

Police spokeswoman Odelia Tam said police are investigating the alleged attack but have not made any arrests. She said she did not know the identity of the alleged attacker.

Calls seeking comment Sunday from the Zimbabwean embassy in Beijing went unanswered.

The Sunday Times condemned the attack.

"We take very seriously the freedom of journalists to operate abiding by the law in Hong Kong and we look to the Hong Kong authorities to uphold those rights at all times," said Michael Sheridan, the paper's Far East correspondent.

Zimbabwe's first lady was vacationing in Hong Kong and visiting her daughter Bona, who is studying in the Chinese-ruled former British colony, The Sunday Times said.

Grace Mugabe has left Hong Kong since the alleged attack, the report said.

Sheridan said he and Jones had been staking out the Shangri-La on Thursday, where Mugabe was believed to be staying.

Sheridan told the AP he approached Mugabe in the lobby of the Shangri-La shortly before the alleged attack, but a female companion denied her identity.

About 10 minutes later, he found Jones nearby "with his face streaming blood."

Sheridan said The Sunday Times wanted to "draw a contrast between her lifestyle and the plight of the people in Zimbabwe."

Zimbabwe is suffering from a cholera crisis that has killed 2,200 people and an economic meltdown that has seen inflation officially put at 231 million percent.

Despite the country's political and economic difficulties, Grace Mugabe went ahead with a vacation in Asia, spending time in the Malaysian island resort Langkawi and Singapore before arriving in Hong Kong, The Sunday Times said. Robert Mugabe joined his wife in Singapore for a few days, the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, the country's main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, returned home Saturday for talks Monday with Robert Mugabe about a power-sharing agreement that was reached in September but never implemented.

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