The US Embassy in Zimbabwe urged American citizens to "shelter in place" early Wednesday as troops were seen in the streets of the capital amid rising political turmoil surrounding the country's 93-year-old president, Robert Mugabe.
The message from the embassy in Harare cited "ongoing political uncertainty through the night" and added the embassy would be closed to the public on Wednesday. The British embassy issued a similar warning, citing "reports of unusual military activity."
Shortly after the embassy statements, Zimbabwe's army sought to reassure the country that "this is not a military takeover" and that while Mugabe was safe and sound, the military was targeting "criminals around him" who have sent the nation spinning into economic despair.
The army took control of the state Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation late Tuesday and an army spokesman made the statement on air early Wednesday.
"As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy," the army spokesman said, calling on churches to pray for the country.
It was not clear where Mugabe and his wife were early Wednesday."Their security is guaranteed," the army statement said. The president reportedly attended a weekly Cabinet meeting Tuesday.
On Monday, army commander Constantino Chiwenga issued an unprecedented statement saying purges against senior ruling ZANU-PF party officials, many of whom like Mnangagwa fought for liberation, should end "forthwith."
On Tuesday night the ruling party issued a statement accusing the army commander of "treasonable conduct," saying his comments were "clearly calculated to disturb national peace and stability" and were "meant to incite insurrection."
Frustration has been growing in once-prosperous Zimbabwe as the economy collapses under Mugabe. The country was shaken last year by the biggest anti-government protests in a decade, and a once-loyal war veterans association turned on the president, calling him "dictatorial" and blaming him for the economic crisis.