Updated at 3 a.m. ET on Wednesday
Zimbabwe's army said Wednesday that it has seized control in what is being described as "a bloodless transition" that has apparently pushed aside President Robert Mugabe. The military said he and his family are "safe and sound."
Armored vehicles and soldiers patrolled streets in the capital, Harare, amid loud explosions. Soldiers reportedly took control of the headquarters of the national broadcaster, ZBC, and an army spokesman said on air "this is not a military takeover."
"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," according to the statement.
However, just a week after Mugabe, 93, fired longtime vice president and war vet Emmerson Mnangagwa, accusing him of disloyalty and disrespect, the ruling ZANU PF party tweeted that Mnangagwa had been installed as its interim president.
The apparent putsch marked the first time in Mugabe's 37-year rule that a public rift was visible between the military and Mugabe — the world's oldest head-of-state, who has been in office since the end of white minority rule in 1980.
Initially, the ruling ZANU PF party accused Army Chief Gen. Constantino Chiwenga of "treasonous conduct," but the party later tweeted that: "There was no coup," but instead "a bloodless transition which saw corrupt and crooked persons being arrested." Apparently referring to Mugabe, the tweet said "an elderly man who had been taken advantage of by his wife [was] detained."
The ZANU PF Twitter account retweeted a message from the party's youth league that said: "The army is simply effecting a National Democratic Project and it's doing so with peaceful aplomb."
In the army's broadcast, the spokesman said the military expected "normalcy" to return as soon as the army had completed its "mission."
Chiwenga made an unprecedented announcement Monday that the army was prepared to intervene to halt party infighting and the purging of veterans who fought Zimbabwe's independence war.
Mnangagwa had been tipped as a likely successor to Mugabe, but fell out with the president's powerful wife, Grace Mugabe. His removal was widely perceived as a prelude to Mugabe promoting the politically ambitious but controversial first lady to one of two vice presidential posts.
The U.S. embassy closed to the public and encouraged citizens to shelter in place, citing "the ongoing political uncertainty through the night." The British embassy issued a similar warning, and noted "reports of unusual military activity." Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.