The Egyptian army has said that President Mohammed Morsi is to be replaced and that the constitution has been suspended. Fresh troops have been deployed around Cairo, with anti-Morsi protesters jubilant.
Egyptian Armed Forces Commander in Chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi announced on national television on Wednesday evening that the head of the country’s Supreme Constitutional Court would act as interim president.
A national unity government pending early elections would be formed, he said, adding that a “strong and capable” government would be formed that would have “full capacities.”
Al-Sissi said a panel would be formed to look into amendments to the constitution and a law would be drafted to regulate parliamentary elections.
Anti-Morsi protesters celebrated in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, releasing rounds of fireworks shortly after the arm statement.
A statement on the Egyptian president’s office’s Twitter account quoted Morsi as saying that the actions of the military amounted to “a full coup.” Meanwhile, an aide of Morsi, Ayman Ali, was reported by the AP news agency as saying the ousted leader had been moved to an undisclosed location, but gave no further details.
Troops and armored personnel carriers had earlier moved near to the scenes of pro-Morsi protests, including a central one outside the Rabia al-Adawiya Mosque. The Reuters news agency said troops had also deployed outside a barracks where Morsi was said to be working at the time, and that the building was being surrounded with barbed wire.
The state-run Al-Ahram newspaper reported that the military had placed several leaders of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood under surveillance and imposed a travel ban on them. The news agency DPA reported sources at Cairo airport as saying that a travel ban on Morsi himself was related to the president’s 2011 escape from prison during the uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak.
Al-Ahram, which is understood to be under the control of the military, said forces had been deployed in Cairo “to prevent any dangerous acts of violence that might threaten Egyptian national security in the coming hours.”
In a last minute statement before the deadline expired between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. local time (1400 to 1500 GMT), Morsi himself criticized the military for “taking only one side.”
On Monday, the Egyptian army had given Morsi 48 hours to reach a compromise deal with the opposition – or face an imposed military solution.
He added that respecting his electoral legitimacy was the only way to prevent violence. In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Morsi called for national dialogue to end the political crisis.
Opposition spokesman Mohamed ElBaradei, along with Egypt’s top Muslim cleric and a Coptic pope had met General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for talks on measures that the military threatened to impose on Wednesday. Those discussions came to an end on Wednesday evening, with a statement to be released by the army on a new roadmap for transitional rule.
The political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood reportedly refused an invitation to meet with the armed forces commander, and promised to stand firm against any pressure brought by the army for Morsi to step down.
rc/mkg (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)