Zimbabwe crisis: Army takes over – Mugabe ‘detained’
The military has seized control in Zimbabwe and has said President Robert Mugabe, in power since 1980, is safe.
After seizing state TV, an army spokesman announced it was targeting people close to Mr Mugabe who had caused “social and economic suffering”.
Messages attributed to a ruling party Twitter account described the takeover as a “bloodless transition”.
The move came after Mr Mugabe sacked his deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, in favour of his wife.
A statement read out by a general on air denied it was a coup and said Mr Mugabe was safe, but did not say where.
Heavy gun and artillery fire could be heard in northern parts of the capital Harare early on Wednesday.
There was no immediate word from Mr Mugabe himself.
Mr Mugabe, 93, has dominated the impoverished country’s political scene since independence from the UK.
The UK Foreign Office advised Britons “currently in Harare to remain safely at home or in their accommodation until the situation becomes clearer”, while the US embassy in Harare advised US citizens in Zimbabwe to “shelter in place” until further notice.
How did the military justify its move?
Soldiers overran the headquarters of the ZBC broadcaster after armoured vehicles took up position on roads around Harare on Tuesday.
Maj Gen Sibusiso Moyo went on air to say the military wished to “assure the nation that his Excellency the president… and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed”.
“We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes… that are causing social and economic suffering in the country,” he said.
“As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.”
Other key points of the statement included:
Citizens should remain calm and limit unnecessary movement
The military assures the Zimbabwean judiciary that its independence is guaranteed
Security services should “co-operate for the good of our country” and any provocation would “be met with an appropriate response”
All leave for the defence forces is cancelled and personnel should return to barracks immediately
It is not clear who is leading the military action. Army chief Gen Constantino Chiwenga had said the army was prepared to act to end purges within the ruling Zanu-PF party.