The reason for the military presence was not immediately clear but the vehicles may have been on routine manoeuvres.

The military spokesman and Defence Minister Sidney Sekeremayi were not available for comment.

The development comes a day after the country’s head of the armed forces, General Constantino Chiwenga, said he was prepared to “step in” to end a purge of supporters of ousted Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

PURGE

General Chiwenga demanded a "stop" to the purge in the ruling Zanu-PF party after the sacking of Mr Mnangagwa, and warned the military could intervene.

"The current purging which is clearly targeting members of the party with a liberation background must stop forthwith," General Chiwenga told a media conference attended by about 90 senior army officers at army HQ.

In an unprecedented warning, he said in a statement: "We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in."

Mr Mnangagwa fled into exile in South Africa after he was pushed out of the party but vowed to fight Mr Mugabe and his wife Grace, the likely successor of the the 93-year-old president.

Analysts had warned that the sacking would spark repercussions beyond Mr Mugabe's control.

CONNECTIONS

Mr Mnangagwa's main rivals within the ruling Zanu-PF- party are the younger "Generation 40" or "G40" group, who enjoy Grace's support.

But the 75-year-old former vice president has powerful military connections, having served as defence and state security minister.

The majority of Zimbabwe’s army commanders are veterans of the country’s liberation war and were heavily involved in the ruling party politics.

President Mugabe has in the past complained about the military’s meddling in politics and his wife Grace recently claimed some commanders were threatening a coup if Mr Mnangagwa was not allowed to succeed her husband.

Mr Mugabe, the world's oldest president, is showing increasing signs of old age, but has refused to name his successor.

Zimbabwe goes to elections next year to vote for a president and lawmakers.

Additional reporting by AFP and agencies.

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