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Zimbabwe's army denies a military takeover of the government is underway

Hours after witnesses first described hearing explosions and gunfire in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, early Wednesday morning, Zimbabwe's army said in a televised statement that what is taking place is not "a military takeover of government" and that President Robert Mugabe is safe and under protection.

The army is targeting people who "were committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country," the statement said. "As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy." Armed vehicles were seen lining the streets outside of Harare, the BBC reports, and witnesses told Reuters that soldiers took control of the state-run broadcaster ZBC and manhandled some staffers.

Earlier this month, Mugabe, 93, ousted Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who had been viewed as Mugabe's likely successor; the new frontrunner is Mugabe's wife, Grace. On Monday, Gen. Constantine Chiwenga said if there are any more purges in the ruling Zanu-PF party, the army "will not hesitate to step in," and the government responded Tuesday by accusing him of "treasonable conduct."