Britain said the situation in Zimbabwe was fluid and appealed for all sides in the former British colony to refrain from violence. Picture: AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi

London - Britain said on Wednesday the situation in Zimbabwe was fluid and that it was hard to say how it would turn out, appealing for all sides in the former British colony to refrain from violence.

Zimbabwe's military seized power early on Wednesday targeting "criminals" around President Robert Mugabe but gave assurances on national television that the 93-year-old leader and his family were "safe and sound".

"It's very fluid and it's hard to say exactly how this will turn out," British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said. "The most important point to make is that everybody wants to see a stable and successful Zimbabwe and I think we are really appealing for everybody to refrain from violence."

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The Zimbabwean military is in charge of a paramilitary police support unit depot in Harare and has disarmed police officers there, an army source told Reuters.

"They are now in charge of all armoury, all gates and roads leading in or out of the camp. Arcturus Road (which leads to the camp) is closed and all Support Unit details with guns have been disarmed," the source said.