State Dept urges US citizens in Zimbabwe to shelter in place amid coup fears

State Dept urges US citizens in Zimbabwe to shelter in place amid coup fears

The U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe is urging Americans in the country to shelter in place amid mounting concerns of a military coup. 

In a message posted online Tuesday night, the embassy also instructed U.S. government personnel in Zimbabwe to remain in their residences and work from home on Wednesday.

"Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence," the message reads. "Avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place and exercise caution when in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations." 

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Concerns grew on Tuesday after soldiers seized Zimbabwe's state broadcaster ZBC in response to accusations by the ruling ZANU-PF party that the head of the military had committed treason.

The move has increased speculation that a coup against 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe could be underway, according to Reuters.

Mugabe has been in power for 37 years. While he is respected by many in southern Africa, the president has also come under fire for what critics have described as his despotic rule and severe human rights abuses. 

Zimbabwe is also in the midst of a financial crisis that has left unemployment high and the African nation starved for cash.

Mugabe's government has remained relatively silent on the ongoing turmoil, but according to Reuters, Isaac Moyo, the country's ambassador to South Africa, has said that the government is "intact" and that the coup rumors are false.