Zimbabwe military says it is not taking over government

13 shows Chiwenga

13 shows Chiwenga

He said the events in the capital tonight were not part of "a military takeover of government" and President Robert Mugabe was safe.

Heavy gunfire and artillery have also been heard in northern suburbs, although the situation is unclear, BBC reported on Wednesday.

"We are only targeting criminals around him (Mugabe) who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice", Zimbabwe Major General SB Moyo, Chief of Staff Logistics, said on television.

The spokesman added "as soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy".

Tensions have been building in Zimbabwe since Emmerson Mnangagwa, a powerful figure in the ruling Zanu-PF party, fled to South Africa last week.

Martin Rupiya, an expert on Zimbabwe military affairs, said the army appeared to be moving to put the squeeze on Mr Mugabe.

Grace Mugabe is much younger than her husband and does not enjoy popular support, nor does she have the backing of the liberation-era party stalwarts.

It said Ambassador Harry K. Thomas, Jr. had advised embassy employees to stay home on Wednesday and USA government personnel have been told to work from home due to the "ongoing political uncertainty".

Similarly, if Mugabe's wife, who has a large number of opponents within the party and government, is appointed vice-president and de facto heir at Zanu-PF's annual congress next month, that could even threaten the future of the party, says the Mail.

Zimbabwe's ruling party has accused the country's army chief of "treasonable conduct" after he warned of a possible military intervention.

At a Monday news conference, the head of Zimbabwe's armed forces, General Constantino Chiwenga, warned he would "step in" unless Mugabe stopped trying to purge the ruling ZANU-PF party of Mnangagwa supporters.

Earlier, three armored personnel carriers with several soldiers in a convoy were seen heading toward an army barracks just outside the capital, Harare, the Associated Press reported.

A long-running political struggle over who will succeed Mugabe, who has been in power since the country gained independence from Britain in 1980, has been slowly escalating.

Earlier on Tuesday Kudzai Chipanga, the leader of Zanu-PF's youth wing, accused Gen Chiwenga of stealing billions of rands and said his movement would act to protect the president.

Reports from military sources in Harare said: "We are in control", without giving more detail.

Zimbabwe was plunged into crisis when Mr Mugabe sacked Mr Mnangagwa, a 75-year-old veteran of Zimbabwe's liberation wars, last week.

The United States on Wednesday encouraged its citizens residing here to "shelter in place" amid political turmoil in the country.

A USA embassy spokesman in Zimbabwe said the embassy would be minimally staffed and closed to the public on Wednesday.

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