Members of the presidential guard accompany President Robert Mugabe during the official opening of the fifth session of the eighth Parliament of Zimbabwe in Harare, Zimbabwe, on September 12 Conflicting reports of a possible coup d'etat by military are circulating after several tanks where seen driving towards the capital Harare on Tuesday. File Photo by Aaron Ufumeli/EPA-EFE
Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Zimbabwe's army issued a statement on the country's national broadcaster saying it has taken action to "target criminals."
A military spokesman appeared on national broadcaster ZBC early Wednesday to deliver a message that President Robert Mugabe and his family are safe while insisting their approach toward the nation's capital, Harare, was not "a military takeover of government."
"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," the spokesman said. "As soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect that the situation will return to normalcy."
The address also warned citizens to "remain calm and limit unnecessary movement" while encouraging employees of "essential business in the city" to continue normal activities.
"To both our people and the world beyond our borders, we wish to make this abundantly clear this is not a military takeover of government," the spokesman said. "What Zimbabwe defense forces is doing is to pacify a degenerating political, social and economic situation in our country."
Prior to the televised statement, gunfire and explosions were heard in the northern suburbs of Harare, prompting the U.S. and U.K. embassies to take shelter in the event of a potential military coup.
On Tuesday, Zimbabwe's ruling party, Zanu-PF, accused the leader of the army of treason after armored vehicles neared Harare.
A statement by the party's secretary, Simon Khaya Moyo, said the government of President Robert Mugabe would not give in to military threats by Gen. Constantino Chiwenga.
The general warned of a possible military intervention after Mugabe ousted Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and other party officials, ostensibly to clear a path to power for his wife, Grace Mugabe. Chiwenga warned the president, 93, not to carry out anymore purges.
"The current purging, which is clearly targeting members of the party with a liberation background, must stop forthwith," Chiwenga said. "It is our strong and deeply considered position that if drastic action is not taken immediately, our beloved country Zimbabwe will definitely be headed to becoming a neo-colony again."
Zanu-PF said Chiwenga's statement was "calculated to disturb national peace ... [and] incite insurrection."
BBC News reported that a few military vehicles were seen outside the capital but not on the city's streets.
"We are wondering where this is all going," 29-year-old Harare resident Richard Mutedzi told the Los Angeles Times. "Whatever happens, we just hope that it will not affect us and our children,"