Zimbabwe army seizes control but denies coup; Mugabe de…

Zimbabwe’s army seized control of the country Wednesday following a night of unrest, including the detention of 93-year-old dictator Robert Mugabe.

Yet military supporters insisted it was not a military coup but a “bloodless correction” of the African nation’s current political order.

The army took control of the state broadcaster, with military spokesman Maj. Gen. S.B. Moyo addressing the nation Wednesday morning, saying “the situation in our country has moved to another level” and assuring that Mugabe and his wife were safe and sound.

Zimbabwe's Army Commander, Constantino Chiwenga addresses a press conference in Harare, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. The army commander Monday criticized the instability in the country’s ruling party caused by President Robert Mugabe who last week fired a vice president. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Zimbabwe’s army commander, Constantino Chiwenga, leading the military action in the country.

 (Associated Press)

The exact location of Mugabes was unclear, but they were reportedly in the custody of the army. Ignatius Chombo, a finance minister loyal to the Mugabe family, was also arrested early Wednesday, Reuters reported.

“We wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover,” the military official said in the broadcast. “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.”

He added that “as soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy” and urged the country to remain calm, while warning that “any provocation will be met with an appropriate response.”

Explosions rock capital

At least three explosions were heard in the country’s capital, Harare, and the military maintained its presence on the streets. According to the BBC, gunfire was also heard in the northern suburbs of Harare and near Mugabe’s private residence.

FILE -- In this Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017 file photo, Zimbabwean President Robert Muagbe addresses mourners at the Heroes Acre in Harare.  Lawyers and a U.S. Embassy official have said Friday Nov. 3, 2017, Zimbabwe police have arrested a United States citizen, named as Martha O'Donovan, for allegedly insulting President Robert Mugabe on Twitter. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, File)

Robert Mugabe, 93, has ruled Zimbabwe since the end of white-majority rule in the 1980s.

 (Associated Press)

The army has taken key points in Harare, while Zimbabweans formed long lines at banks to withdraw the limited cash available.

The army’s sweeping of power has raised concerns whether the events indicate a military coup with the aim to remove the Mugabe family from power.

Grace Mugabe, the dictator’s wife, was seen as a likely successor to his rule. Robert Mugabe has ruled the country since 1987.

Supporters of the military denied accusations of coup, saying it was a “bloodless correction of gross abuse of power.”

‘Genuine democracy’

Chris Mutsvangwa, chairman of the war veterans association, said the army will return Zimbabwe to “genuine democracy” and make it a “modern model nation.”

Most military veterans support Emmerson Mnangagwa, now-former vice president who was fired by Mugabe last week. He fled the country last week but has promised to return.

The U.S. Embassy closed Wednesday, with the U.S. urging its citizens in Zimbabwe to shelter in place, claiming “the ongoing political uncertainty through the night.” The British Embassy also issued a similar alert to its citizens.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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