Indications are we are going to military rule - Zim ambassador

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe with his wife Grace earlier this year

Witnesses in the city reported several lorries full of military personnel and at least six armoured vehicles on roads approaching the city in the late afternoon, though residents said there was no sign of troops in the centre of Harare, the airport, government broadcasters or the residence of president Robert Mugabe.

There were few people on Harare's streets as night fell and although initially the military movements did not appear to represent an immediate offensive action, locals report hearing explosions, heavy gunfire and artillery in northern suburbs.

Reuters reported that soldiers have taken over the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corp. 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 [Mugabe], who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country, in order to bring them to justice", according to the statement.

In the broadcast, the spokesman said the military expected "normalcy" to return as soon as the army had completed its "mission".

The South African cites reports that Robert Mugabe has actually been under house arrest for the last few days - a claim denied by Zanu-PF's official Twitter, which insists there is "NO coup happening". Grace Mugabe and Mnangagwa's factions within the party had been battling for dominance.

In response on Tuesday, Zimbabwe's ruling party accused the military chief of "treasonable conduct" for challenging its president.

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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.

The army had on Monday warned it could "step in" and would not tolerate purges in the ruling ZANU-PF that had seen Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa fired.

Mugabe's second wife has developed a reputation as a shrewd, if sometimes extravagant, politician, and has steadily gained influence among youth in Zimbabwe.

Soldiers stand beside military vehicles just outside Harare, Zimbabwe, on 14 November 2017 as rumours mount of a coup against president Robert Mugabe. "Zimbabweans are urged to stay away from the CBD tomorrow until further notice". The veteran of the country's 1970s liberation war was popular with the military and had been seen as a likely successor to Mugabe.

The US embassy in Zimbabwe has told American citizens in the country to "shelter in place".

The UK Foreign Office advised Britons "currently in Harare to remain safely at home or in their accommodation until the situation becomes clearer".

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