President Robert Mugabe warned protesters on Friday there would be no "Arab Spring" in Zimbabwe after anti-government demonstrations descended to some of the worst violence seen in the southern African nation for two decades.
Zimbabwean police fired tear gas and water cannon at opposition leaders and hundreds of demonstrators at a protest against Mugabe and the ruling ZANU-PF, before unrest swept across large parts of the capital Harare.
"They are thinking that what happened in the Arab Spring is going to happen in this country but we tell them that it is not going to happen here," Mugabe told state television, referring to a series of uprisings that toppled leaders across the Arab world.
Mugabe accused Western countries, including the United States, of sponsoring the protests.
"They are fighting because of Americans," said Mugabe.
Earlier, opposition head Morgan Tsvangirai and former vice president Joice Mujuru fled a rally in their cars while protesters ran for cover as police broke up the core of the demonstration. However, anti-Mugabe leaders warned that this would be the first of a series of protests.
Mugabe's opponents have become emboldened by rising public anger and protests over an economic meltdown, cash shortages and high unemployment. Mugabe, 92, has led Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980.
Clashes spread through the streets of the capital Harare as riot police fought running battles with protesters who hurled rocks at officers, set tyres ablaze and burned a popular market to the ground, in some of the worst unrest since food riots in 1998.