Zimbabwe military seizes power, detains President Mugabe, denies coup

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Zimbabwe's military appeared to be in control of the country Wednesday as generals denied staging a coup but used state television to vow to target "criminals" close to President Robert Mugabe.

According to eyewitnesses, gunfire erupted near Mugabe's private residence in Harare in the early hours of Wednesday.

The Zimbabwean ambassador to South Africa, Isaac Moyo, had told Reuters that the government was "intact" and dismissed any talk of a possible coup as "just social media claims".

Witnesses also said military vehicles and soldiers were on the streets early Wednesday, hours after soldiers took over Zimbabwe's state broadcaster, ZBC. Firstly, we wish to assure the nation that His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, and commander-in-chief of Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Comrade RG Mugabe, and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed.

"We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes".

He added that things will return to normal as soon as the mission is accomplished.

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He said the "purging" within Zanu-PF was "clearly targeting members of the party with a liberation background", referring to the country's struggle for freedom from white minority rule. More than 100 senior officials allegedly supportive of Mnangagwa were listed for disciplinary measures by a faction associated with Grace Mugabe.

In a message posted online Tuesday night, the embassy also instructed USA government personnel in Zimbabwe to remain in their residences and work from home on Wednesday.

The military's intervention came after a period of unrest within Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF.

Tensions rose in Harare on Tuesday as armoured vehicles, military police and soldiers from Zimbabwe's powerful military drove through the outskirts of the capital.

Despite an often abrasive manner, Grace Mugabe's commanding presence and charity work have won support from some Zimbabweans.

The United States issued a similar advisory to its citizens in Zimbabwe, encouraging them to "shelter in place".

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Some sources in Harare said Mugabe had invited General Chiwenga to the office for discussions earlier in the day, but that the invitation was ignored and that the president later chose to sack the general after the armoured troop carriers arrived in Harare late in the afternoon.

Neither the president nor his wife has responded to the general's remarks but a strong denunciation from the ruling party youth wing on Tuesday signalled that Grace Mugabe's supporters were prepared to defend her.

Chiwenga said: "We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that, when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in".

Mr Mnangagwa is one such veteran of the 1970s war which led to independence.

Both the U.S. and British embassies in Zimbabwe have advised their nationals to stay indoors because of what they call the 'uncertain situation'.

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