Zimbabwe’s army has seized control in the African country but has said President Robert Mugabe, in power since 1980, is safe.
After seizing state TV, a military spokesman announced it was targeting people close to Robert Mugabe who had caused “social and economic suffering”.
The move came after Robert Mugabe fired his deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, in favor of his wife, Grace.
On November 15, heavy gun and artillery fire could be heard in northern parts of the capital Harare.
A statement read out by a general on air denied it was a coup. There was no immediate word from the president himself.
Messages appeared on an unverified Twitter account associated with the ruling Zanu-PF party saying Robert Mugabe had been detained.
Robert Mugabe, 93, has dominated Zimbabwe’s political scene since independence from the UK.
South African President Jacob Zuma said he hoped events in Zimbabwe would not lead to “unconstitutional changes of government”.
The US embassy in Harare advised US citizens in Zimbabwe to “shelter in place” until further notice.
China, Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner, says it is closely watching the situation and hopes that the relevant parties can properly handle their internal affairs.
Troops in armored vehicles have been out in the streets of the capital Harare since November 14.
After soldiers overran the headquarters of the ZBC broadcaster, Maj. Gen. Sibusiso Moyo went on air to say the military wished to “assure the nation that his Excellency the president… and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed”.
“We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes… that are causing social and economic suffering in the country,” the general said.
“As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.”
The statement also said that citizens should remain calm and limit unnecessary movement. The military assures the Zimbabwean judiciary that its independence is guaranteed. Security services should “co-operate for the good of our country” and any provocation would “be met with an appropriate response”. And all leave for the defense forces is canceled and personnel should return to barracks immediately.
It is not clear who is leading the military action.
Army chief Gen. Constantino Chiwenga, who visited China last week, said on November 13 the army was prepared to act to end purges within Zanu-PF.
Some staff at ZBC were manhandled when the soldiers moved in, sources told Reuters.
A government source told Reuters that Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo had been detained.
Ignatius Chombo is a leading member of a faction of Zanu-PF led by Grace Mugabe.
Zanu-PF had accused Gen. Constantino Chiwenga of “treasonable conduct” after he issued his warning that the army might intervene.
Robert Mugabe fired Emmerson Mnangagwa last week, amid a row over succession.
Emmerson Mnangagwa had previously been seen as a potential heir to the president, but First Lady Grace Mugabe had since become the clear front-runner.
Last month, Grace Mugabe accused allies of Emmerson Mnangagwa of planning a coup.
The rivalry between Grace Mugabe and Emmerson Mnangagwa split Zanu-PF.
Gen. Constantino Chiwenga is a close ally of Emmerson Mnangagwa and both are veterans of the 1970s war which ended white minority rule.
The leader of the war veterans, Chris Mutsvangwa, welcomed the military move, telling Reuters: “This is a correction of a state that was careening off the cliff.
“It’s the end of a very painful and sad chapter in the history of a young nation, in which a dictator, as he became old, surrendered his court to a gang of thieves around his wife.”