Shiri, a close confidante of president Robert Mugabe, was ambushed on Monday while travelling on his farm in the Shamva area, about 80km north of Harare.
“It appears soldiers were behind the shooting. They waited for Shiri in the hills and opened fire as he drove past,” said a police source privy to investigations into the shooting.
The air force chief survived the shooting and some source says he was airlifted to South Africa on Wednesday as his condition deteriorated. It appears he got multiples of bullet wounds but the regime is giving misleading information that he was shot in the arm when a bullet is still lodged in his stomach.
“He lost a lot of blood and his car was riddled with holes,” said a reliable police insider. “It is clear the attackers wanted him dead.”
Shiri is part of Mugabe’s security high command, which includes strongmen police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri, and defence force commander- general Constantine Chiwenga.
Earlier reports suggested the shooting was part of a plot to assassinate Mugabe. Some say Shiri was targeted by the Emmerson Munangagwa faction for his role in leaking information about fhe activities in JOC (Joint Operation Command) to the Mujuru faction.
However, initial police investigations showed that the 84-year-old president was nowhere near the ambush.
All top security officials, except for Shiri, held emergency meetings to discuss, among other things, their own security and the breakdown of discipline in the army. "There problem is, they don’t know who to trust because things are unravelling so fast as the battle to control Zanu PF takes twists and turns,"
At least 16 soldiers a face court martial for their part in disturbances in Harare last month when angry unpaid soldiers rioted in the capital. Mugabe, who is commander- in-chief of all the country’s security forces, has not made public comment on Shiri’s shooting.
The air force chief was one of the commanders of the notorious 5th Brigade, the crack military unit that was unleashed by Mugabe on his local and external enemies in the early 1980s.
Shiri’s men killed thousands of Ndebele- speaking Zimbabweans in a determined quest to put down a rebellion.
The unit was also used to counter Renamo rebels in neighbouring Mozambique more than two decades ago.
“He is a hot-tempered chap. He once shot a police vehicle at a roadblock,” recalled a policeman. “Shiri is a cruel guy, everyone hates him.”
The feared military chief was reportedly in intensive care yesterday, but security forces refused to disclose the name of the hospital.
Tomorrow, Mugabe is expected to address his Zanu-PF congress is Bindura, a small town near the area where Shiri was shot.
The congress has already been postponed once owing to the death of Elliot Manyika, a Zanu-PF heavyweight and minister without portfolio.
He died in a road accident.
At Manyika’s funeral last week, the late politician’s brother said the car crash was a culmination of several death threats.
Manyika was in charge of the infamous Zanu-PF youth militia that terrorised opposition members during elections earlier this year.
Yesterday, Harare remained tense after outbreaks of violence involving police and soldiers in the downtown area. There were unconfirmed reports of looting.