HARARE, Zimbabwe — Fearing for their safety, about 80 white farmers and their families refused to return to their fields Monday after black squatters killed a white farmer over the weekend and badly beat five others.

With violence occurring throughout the Macheke district, 75 miles east of Harare, farmers said Monday they would stay out of the area until police and military officials could guarantee security.

Tim Henwood, head of the Commercial Farmers Union, was scheduled to meet in Harare with Dumiso Dabengwa, the Home Affairs Minister in charge of the police.

"Right now, the farmers are adamant they are not going back until they are assured of their safety," said Harry Orphanides, a union spokesman. "There's no faith in the police."

The body of farmer David Stevens, 50, was found Sunday dumped beside a river bridge and an autopsy was being carried out Monday, police said.

Stevens was the father of four young children with his Swedish-born wife, Maria. A memorial service was scheduled April 26 at an agricultural school in the district.

Despite the violence, President Robert Mugabe, returning from an economic summit in Cuba, reaffirmed his support Sunday for the forced occupations of more than 900 white-owned farms, reputedly led by veterans of Zimbabwe's independence war that ended 20 years ago.

Mugabe says the occupations were a justified protest against the unequal distribution of land in a country where 4,000 white farmers own one-third of the productive farmland.

"We warned the white farmers: We cannot protect you if you provoke the war veterans. You must accept the consequences," Mugabe said. "There is an expectation I will say to the war veterans they must get off the land. I will not do that until we start redistributing the land."

Mugabe's comments contradicted his government's appeal Thursday for the squatters to abandon the plots peacefully. The appeal followed a High Court ruling that police must evict the squatters.

Police say they lack the resources and manpower to carry out the High Court's order and have appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.

Opponents say Mugabe has orchestrated the takeovers as a ploy to gain support in national elections, expected to be held in May.

Two officials of the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, were killed in a firebomb attack Saturday in Buhera, 150 miles south of Harare, party officials said.

Opponents hurled a blazing bottle of gasoline into a car being driven by Tichaona Chimenya, party leader Morgan Tsvangirai's official driver, said Nomore Sibanda, Tsvangirai's spokesman.

The attack killed Chimenya and the car's other occupant, whose name was not released.

Mugabe said Tsvangirai, who is visiting Britain to raise money and support for his party, "is running around like a real traitor." The president told his supporters to defend themselves against violence he said was perpetrated by the opposition party.

"Don't kill, but hit back wildly," Mugabe said.

The farm violence Saturday marked a sharp escalation in a crisis that has convulsed this former British colony.

Armed squatters in Macheke abducted Stevens from his farm. Five other white farmers who came to his aid were shot at and took refuge in the police station in Murewa, a nearby provincial center.

But the squatters walked into the station and abducted the farmers as the police watched, according to three of the kidnapped farmers.

The squatters shot and killed Stevens and beat the other farmers throughout the night with iron bars, rocks and fan belts, before releasing them, the injured farmers said from a hospital in Marondera, 40 miles east of Harare.

Stevens was the first farmer killed since the farm takeovers began in February.

Farmer John Osborne said the attackers never mentioned the farms during the beatings, but instead harangued the men for not supporting Mugabe's ruling party, which faces a strong opposition challenge in a parliamentary election. In the past, some squatters have admitted being paid by ruling party activists.

"It's not about land. It's about politics," Osborne said.

In London, Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain told Zimbabwe's ambassador, High Commissioner Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, that Mugabe's government must work "to prevent further lawlessness and violence."