Following at least three explosions across Zimbabwe's capital city tonight – following what appears to be the start of a military coup as tanks rolled in – the US embassy in Harare has been closed. Additionally, reports state that troops have deployed on the streets and have seized the state broadcaster.
As we detailed earlier, The Associated Press said it saw three tanks with several soldiers in a convoy on a road heading toward an army barracks just outside the capital, Harare, while Reuters reported that four tanks were seen heading toward the capital.
And here is Al Jazeera with a brief explainer of the political crisis in Zimbabwe that threatens to sweep Robert Mugabe from his post:
Zimbabwe is facing a political crisis with the ruling Zanu-PF party, as a very public showdown over who is likely to succeed President Robert Mugabe plays out.
The current standoff is between the Youth faction, loyal to his wife, Grace Mugabe, and the former liberation fighters, loyal to Emmerson Mnangagwa, the vice president who was fired last week. Al Jazeera's Hannah Hoexter explains.
But the situation appears to have escalated notably in the last few hours as The Telegraph reports, several loud explosions echoed across central Harare in the early hours of Wednesday after troops deployed on the streets of the capital and seized the state-owened Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corp.
“I was woken up at about 1.10 a.m. by a distant explosion that shook the bed — two others since then,” Roger Stringer, who lives in Harare’s Mount Pleasant suburb, said by phone.
AP notes that Zimbabwe's ruling party is accusing the country's army commander of "treasonable conduct" for his threat to have the military step in and calm political turmoil.
The statement issued Tuesday night says the unprecedented comments made a day earlier by army commander Constantino Chiwenga were "clearly calculated to disturb national peace and stability" and were "meant to incite insurrection."
Additionally, the U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe says it will be closed to the public on Wednesday because of "ongoing uncertainty" in the capital. The embassy announced the closure on Twitter early Wednesday. The embassy says it will remain "minimally staffed."
Due to ongoing uncertainty in Zimbabwe, the U.S. Embassy in Harare will be minimally staffed and closed to the public on November 15. Embassy personnel will continue to monitor the situation closely. @StateDept
— U.S. Embassy Harare (@usembassyharare) November 15, 2017
Additionally The US State Department has issued a warning urging all US citizens currently within #Zimbabwe to shelter in place until the current diplomatic crisis is over.
As a result of the ongoing political uncertainty through the night, the Ambassador has instructed all employees to remain home tomorrow.
U.S. government personnel have been instructed to shelter in their residences tonight and work remotely from home on November 15. The embassy will be minimally staffed and closed to the public.
U.S. citizens in Zimbabwe are encouraged to shelter in place until further notice. Please monitor news and embassy notifications.
In case of emergency involving U.S. citizens, U.S. citizens should call Consul Amy Diaz at +263 772 102 179.
Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. Avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place and exercise caution when in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.
Given the relatively closed nature of markets in Zimbabwe there is little evidence in markets to reflect the potential chaos, however we do note that Bitcoin has suddenly surged as the situation has escalated and we have noted previously, cryptocurrencies have become a more ubiquitous solution for money transfer in Zimbabwe in recent weeks…
This is the first time since his rule began that Zimbabwe is seeing an open rift between the military and 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe.
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