Government troops sealed off Bulawayo's black neighborhoods yesterday and searched houses, including the residence of opposition leader Joshua Nkomo, Washington Post correspondent Jay Ross reported.

The escalation of harassment of Nkomo and his supporters came a day after a senior government minister told a rally that Nkomo's party "must be liquidated."

Police also arrested Sidney Malungu, a member of Parliament from Nkomo's party after a pre-dawn search of his house.

Nkomo apparently left his house in Bulawayo, 300 miles southwest of the capital and the center of his political support, just minutes before the troops searched it. His attorney, Bruce Longhurst, said in a telephone interview that Nkomo was visiting his daughter for the weekend.

Soldiers of the North Korean-trained 5 Brigade, which has been accused of massacring hundreds of Nkomo's supporters in the rural areas in the past few months, and other security forces temporarily detained hundreds of people entering and leaving the black township. A few people were arrested, but most were released after being searched and subjected to identity checks, according to telephone interviews with residents.

Some residents reported hearing a few gunshots, but there were no indications of major violence such as in the rural areas.