Zimbabwe Ruling Party Denies Coup Amid Reports Of Tanks Near Capital

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Zimbabwe's military said Wednesday that it is now in charge of the country in a move allegedly targeted at "criminals" around President Robert Mugabe.In a statement broadcast live on the state-run Zimbabwe Television in the early hours of Wednesday, a Zimbabwe Defence Forces officer called Sibusiso Moyo however said Mugabe was safe.

Earlier, explosions and gunfire were heard in northern suburbs of the capital, including shots near 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe's private residence.

The U.S. ambassador in Zimbabwe has instructed all employees to remain home on Wednesday due to "ongoing political uncertainty", the embassy said in a statement on its website amid speculation about a coup.

He said Mr. Mugabe and his family were "safe and sound, and their security is guaranteed".

The US State Department said it was "closely monitoring" the situation in Zimbabwe and urged all parties to resolve disputes "calmly and peacefully".

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

It didn't help that on Tuesday, a handful of tanks and military vehicles were seen near the capital city Harare.

The US embassy in Harare has announced it will be closed on November 15 and there are reports it has advised US citizens in the region to shelter in place.

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The attacks, which had the backing of President Mugabe, eventually led to the dismissal of the former vice president, who has strong backing from the military.

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.

Concerns grew on Tuesday after soldiers seized Zimbabwe's state broadcast ZBC in response to accusations by the ruling ZANU-PF party that the head of the military had committed treason.

Mugabe - the world's oldest head of state - last week fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and accused him of plotting to take power, including through witchcraft.

The leader of Zanu-PF's youth wing, Kudzai Chipanga, told reporters: "It is our country and future at stake and we will not let any individual military man interfere with the leader of the party and legitimately voted president of this country".

It appears the trigger of the army action was the sacking last week of Mr Mugabe's once loyal deputy, Vice-President Mnangagwa. A potential flashpoint could come next week, when supporters of Mnangagwa plan to march against Mugabe in Harare.

For decades general Mnangagwa, known as the Crocodile, was at President Mugabe of Zimbabwe's side, an ally who was relied on to do the dirty work and was described as the one person more feared than his boss.

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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