Foreign embassies warn citizens to 'shelter in place' ahead of possible military coup in Zimbabwe

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Associated Press

At least three explosions were heard in Zimbabwe's capital today and military vehicles were seen in the streets after the army commander threatened to "step in" to calm political tensions over 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe's possible successor.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe

Source: Associated Press

The ruling party has accused the commander of "treasonable conduct."

The US 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, citing "reports of unusual military activity."

For the first time, this southern African nation is seeing an open rift between the military and Mr Mugabe, the world's oldest head of state who has ruled since independence from white minority rule in 1980. 

The Associated Press says they witnessed armed soldiers assaulting passers-by in the early morning hours in Harare, as well as soldiers loading ammunition near a group of four military vehicles.

The explosions could be heard near the University of Zimbabwe campus. The developments came several hours after the AP saw three armored personnel carriers in a convoy heading toward an army barracks just outside the capital.

Mr Mugabe last week fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and accused him of plotting to take power, including through witchcraft.

Mr Mnangagwa, who enjoyed the military's backing and once was seen as a potential president, fled the country and said he had been threatened.

Over 100 senior officials allegedly supporting him have been listed for disciplinary measures by a faction associated with Mr Mugabe's wife, Grace.

The first lady now appears positioned to replace Mr Mnangagwa as one of the country's two vice presidents at a special conference of the ruling party in December, leading many in Zimbabwe to suspect that she could succeed her husband.

Grace Mugabe is unpopular with some Zimbabweans because of lavish spending as many struggle, and four people accused of booing her at a recent rally were arrested.

The president reportedly attended a weekly Cabinet meeting Tuesday as the military vehicles were first sighted. It was not clear where his wife was.

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