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Zimbabwe has blocked Facebook , Twitter and WhatsApp messaging app amid a crackdown on days of violent protests , BBC reported on Friday.A coalition of local human rights groups says at least 12 people have been killed and many more beaten and tortured by security forces this week .

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum accused the authorities of cutting off the internet “ to mask the massive human rights violations ” .

The protests were sparked on Monday by a sharp rise in the price of fuel.

The government has blamed the opposition and political rights groups for the protests , which has seen riot police clashing with protesters in the capital, Harare , and the southern city of Bulawayo after they lit fires and blocked roads using rocks .

There has been looting and some businesses and schools in the two cities have been forced to close . Soldiers are guarding petrol stations , where there are still long queues of motorists looking for petrol .

The UN has called on the government to halt the “ excessive use of force” by security forces including firing live ammunition , and allegations of night – time door – to -door searches and beatings .

“ Doctors ’ associations say more than 60 people were treated in hospital for gunshot wounds , this is not way to react to the expression of economic grievances by the population, ” Reuters news agency quotes UN human rights spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani as saying .

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The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said it had recorded at least 844 human rights violations in all .

On Thursday , prominent activist Evan Mawarire , who called for a stay -at – home protest on social media , was charged with subverting the government , a crime which carries up to 20 years in jail . He gained fame as a figurehead of the # ThisFlag protests against the former president , Robert Mugabe , in 2016 .

President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the rise was aimed at tackling shortages caused by an increase in fuel use and “ rampant ” illegal trading.

But many Zimbabweans – worn down by years of economic hardship – suddenly found they could not even afford the bus fare to work .

Media captionRoads were barricaded by protesters earlier this week

They feel that the president , who is on a tour of Russia and Asian countries this week , is failing to live up to his promises following his election last year in disputed polls .

He is struggling to revive the economy , which is experiencing high inflation while wages have stagnated .

The southern African nation faces a severe shortage of US dollar cash and confidence in its bond notes , currency that can only be traded in Zimbabwe , is low.

The bond notes , or “ bollars ” , are supposed to be worth the same as the dollar but have lost value because of a lack of foreign currency backing the note , and are now worth much less than a dollar .

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The fuel hike means petrol prices rose from $ 1 . 24 ( £ 0 . 97 ) a litre to $ 3 . 31 , with diesel up from $ 1 . 36 a litre to $ 3 . 11 .

The new prices mean Zimbabwe now has the most expensive fuel in the world , according to GlobalPetrolPrices . com .

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