Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was ousted from power by the military on Wednesday as protesters celebrated with fireworks that lit up Cairo’s night sky.
In a televised broadcast, the head of the country’s armed forces issued a declaration suspending the Islamist-backed constitution and appointing the chief justice of the constitutional court as interim head of state.
General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for presidential and parliamentary elections, a panel to review the constitution and a national reconciliation committee that would include youth movements. He said the road map had been agreed by a range of political groups.
The Egyptian presidential office’s Twitter account published statements attributed to Mr. Morsi saying the military’s announcement represented “a full coup categorically rejected by all the free men of our nation.” The Islamist leader urged citizens to not accept the coup while avoiding “shedding blood of fellow countrymen,” according to one Tweet. It was unclear who had posted the messages.
Here’s more on today’s dramatic developments:
What’s happening now?
- Mr. Morsi was informed by the army that he was no longer president at 7 p.m. local time, according to the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper. Mr. Morsi was sequestered in a Republican Guard barracks. As tanks and troops secured the area, tens of thousands of supporters of his Muslim Brotherhood rallied nearby to protest against his removal.
- A top Morsi aide characterized the developments as a “military coup,” warning violence would be required to break up pro-Morsi demonstrators. “There will be considerable bloodshed. And the message will resonate throughout the Muslim World loud and clear: democracy is not for Muslims,” Essam al-Haddad wrote. Another top aide, Gehad El-Haddad, also called the developments “a full military coup,” and said tanks have started moving through the streets.
- Egyptian security forces arrested the head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and another of the movement’s top leaders on Wednesday, an FJP official and security sources said. Saad El-Katatni, the head of the FJP and the former speaker of parliament, was arrested along with Rashad al-Bayoumi, one of the Brotherhood’s deputy leaders, the sources told Reuters.
- Al-Ahram reported that arrest warrants had been issued for 300 Brotherhood members, and the security forces were preparing to clear a pro-Morsi rally near Cairo University.
- At least 10 people were killed on Wednesday in clashes between Mr. Morsi's opponents and supporters, state media and officials said. At least three people were killed in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria after the throwing of rocks and bricks escalated into gunfire, state news agency MENA reported. An earlier report said at least 50 people were wounded.
- U.S. President Barack Obama says he’s ordered his administration to review U.S. foreign aid to Egypt. Mr. Obama says he’s “deeply concerned” by the military’s move to topple Mr. Morsi and suspend Egypt’s constitution. But Mr. Obama's not calling the move a coup. The administration would be forced to suspend its $1.5-billion (U.S.) in annual military and economic assistance to Egypt – which is deemed a critical U.S. national security priority – if the ouster is determined to have been a coup d’etat. Under U.S. law, the unconstitutional ouster of a democratically elected government by a country’s armed forces would trigger an aid cutoff.
- Egyptian military leaders have assured the Obama administration that they are not interested in long-term rule following Mr. Morsi's ouster and have appointed a government of civilian technocrats to temporarily run the country in an apparent bid to forestall potential U.S. sanctions, American officials said Wednesday.
The U.S. State Department is ordering nonessential U.S. diplomats and the families of all U.S. embassy personnel to leave Egypt, a U.S. official said. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official wasn’t authorized to discuss it publicly, said the State Department had placed the U.S. embassy in Cairo on “ordered departure” status for non-emergency staff and dependents all employees. That means that those covered by the order are required to leave the country. It was not immediately clear if an evacuation operation would be mounted or if those departing would use commercial airlines or passenger ships to leave.
- The general command of the Egyptian armed forces held meetings with religious, national, political and youth figures.
- Military officers are present in the newsroom of the country’s state broadcaster and are monitoring its output. Employees not working on live broadcasts were sent home.
- Civil servants occupied the cabinet office and would not let Prime Minister Hisham Kandil enter the building, according to the state news agency.
- In a statement issued shortly before the military ultimatum expired, Mr. Morsi reiterated that he has no intention of stepping down. He warned that his electoral legitimacy is the only safeguard against violence and instability, saying it was a mistake to “take sides.” Mr. Morsi also said a coalition government should be part of a solution but appeared to offer no new compromises.
- Mr. Morsi’s spokesman said it was better that he die in defence of democracy than be blamed by history. “There is only one thing we can do: We will stand in between the tanks and the president,” Mr. El-Haddad told Reuters less than three hours before the ultimatum was due to expire. “We will not allow the will of the Egyptian people to be bullied again by the military machine.”
When was the deadline?
On Monday, the military gave Mr. Morsi an ultimatum to meet the protesters’ demands within 48 hours. While the military did not give a precise hour, Morsi opponents put it between around 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. local time (10 a.m. to 11 a.m. ET) Wednesday.
What’s the mood on the streets?
Loud cheers erupted among millions of protesters nationwide who were demanding Mr. Morsi’s ouster. Fireworks lit the Cairo night sky as protesters celebrated in Tahrir Square.
Elsewhere in the city, supporters of Mr. Morsi shouted: “No to military rule.” Some broke up paving stones, forming piles of rocks. Muslim Brotherhood security guards in hard hats and holding sticks formed a cordon around the encampment, close to a mosque. Men and women wept and chanted.
Some denounced General Sisi, shouting: “Sisi is void! Islam is coming! We will not leave!”
What happened in the hours leading up to the deadline?
• In an emotional, rambling midnight television address, Mr. Morsi said he was democratically elected and would stay in office to uphold the constitutional order, declaring: “The price of preserving legitimacy is my life.” The Islamist president also warned the military against removing him, saying such action would “backfire on its perpetrators.”
• Clashes overnight between supporters of the president and opponents left at least 23 dead in Cairo.
• Three government spokesmen quit on Tuesday in high-level defections. Five cabinet members resigned on Monday and a sixth quit on Tuesday.
• U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Tuesday and the two also spoke last week, the Pentagon said on Wednesday, declining to offer details of the conversations. Asked why the Pentagon had previously declined to disclose the calls, spokesman George Little told reporters: “I think you can understand the sensitivities of this situation and that’s in essence the bottom line.”
What are the wider consequences of chaos in Egypt?
• Egypt is the most populous Arab country, with 84 million people, and historically the most influential, so what happens there sways the region. And with its strategic location, that affects the world. It is also Washington’s most important Arab ally.
• The country was the site of an extraordinary uprising in early 2011 that toppled Mr. Morsi’s autocratic predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, at the height of the Arab Spring.
With reports from Reuters and Associated Press