Soldiers 'take over Zimbabwe's state broadcaster' as explosions heard in Harare

Soldiers 'take over Zimbabwe's state broadcaster' as explosions heard in Harare

Three explosions were heard in Zimbabwe's capital Harare on Wednesday as military vehicles were seen in streets. However, Isaac Moyo, Zimbabwe's ambassador in South Africa, claimed the government remains "intact".

Some staff at ZBC, the national broadcaster, were manhandled when soldiers took over their offices in Harare late on Tuesday evening, sources told Reuters.

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

According to the army general, they expect that the situation will return to normalcy "as soon as we have accomplished our mission".

The Zanu-PF party said Gen Chiwenga's comments were "calculated to disturb national peace..."

Witnesses said they saw four armoured vehicles turn before reaching Harare and head towards the Presidential Guard compound in a suburb on the outskirts of Harare.

As soldiers patrolled the streets, a military spokesman, in a live speech at 4 a.m. local time on state broadcaster ZBC, denied the country was in the grip of a coup, and announced Mugabe and his family were "safe".

The U.S. Embassy closed to the public Wednesday and encouraged citizens to shelter in place, citing "the ongoing political uncertainty through the night".

The Chikurubi Support Unit of Zimbabwe's police force, which usually supports the Zanu PF youth league, has also been taken hostage by the military, witnesses say.

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Mugabe has ruled for 37 years but has recently fired veterans of the liberation struggle from party posts, leaving the top of Zanu-PF full of officials who did not fight in the country's independence war.

Mr Mugabe sacked Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week, amid a row over succession.

The developments in the Zimbabwe capital fuelled speculation that a coup was under way against Mugabe, after the head of the armed forces threatened to "step in" over the sacking of an influential vice president.

Mr Mnangagwa had previously been seen as an heir to the president, but First Lady Grace Mugabe is now the clear front-runner.

Grace Mugabe's rise has brought her into conflict with the independence-era war veterans, who once enjoyed a privileged role in the ruling party under Mugabe, but who have in recent years been banished from senior government and party roles.

But shortly after reports of tanks nearing the capital came through, Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party released a statement saying it would never succumb to military pressure.

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

In an address to the nation, an army spokesman said the military is targeting "criminals" around Mugabe, and sought to reassure the country that order will be restored.

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