Zimbabwe’s army says it has the African nation’s president Robert Mugabe and his wife in custody.
“Their security is guaranteed,” Major General Sibusiso Moyo said Wednesday in an address after military forces took control of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC).
“We wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover,” he added in an address to the entire country.
“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.”
Moyo also urged other security forces in Zimbabwe to “cooperate for the good of the country,” warning that “any provocation will be met with an appropriate response.”
“As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy,” he said.
Zimbabwe’s military secured control of government offices and the ZBC – a state broadcaster – early Wednesday.
Armed soldiers in armored personnel carriers also stationed themselves at key points in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital and largest city.
Wednesday’s events mark the first time Zimbabwe has seen its military oppose Mugabe, 93, and his government.
Mugabe is one of the world's oldest heads of state, and he has held power in Zimbabwe since its independence from white minority rule in 1980.
South African President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday said that Mugabe told him he is “fine” and confined to his home.
Mugabe had recently fired his deputy, seemingly positioning his wife to become one of Zimbabwe’s two vice presidents at a party conference in December.
Grace Mugabe has proved unpopular with some Zimbabweans, however, and she would have replaced Emmerson Mnangagwa for the potential role.
Mnangagwa has significant support from Zimbabwe’s military, and it was not clear Wednesday where he was.
The Zimbabwean lawmaker fled his country last week, citing threats to himself and his family before his exit.
The U.S. Embassy on Wednesday closed to the public, encouraging citizens there to shelter in place due to “the ongoing political uncertainty through the night.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.