Egyptian military says it has ousted Morsi; crowds celebrate in Cairo
CAIRO — Mohammed Morsi, in office only a year as the first democratically elected leader of Egypt, was rousted from power by the military Wednesday as a euphoric crowd in Tahrir Square cheered his exit.
The commanding general of the armed forces, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, said on Egyptian television that the constitution was suspended and that the head of the constitutional court would be the acting president. He said new elections would be held, with the timing to be determined later.
Armored vehicles, tanks and troops deployed throughout the Egyptian capital, the army seized the headquarters of state television, and the military convened a meeting with political opponents of Morsi and religious leaders.
Morsi was elected a year ago after Egyptians ousted Hosni Mubarak, the autocrat who had ruled for almost three decades. Egyptians hoped he would build a more pluralistic and tolerant country.
Instead, Egyptians have been frustrated by a struggling economy and poor services and infuriated by what they see as power grabs by Morsi — stifling the judiciary and forcing through a constitution that favored Islamists and ignored minorities.
On Tuesday, Morsi gave a loud, passionate, 45-minute speech to the country, blaming loyalists of Mubarak for fighting against democracy and challenging his leadership.
“I am prepared to sacrifice my blood for the sake of the security and stability of this homeland,” he said.
On Wednesday, as the military appeared to be taking control of parts of Cairo, advisers to Morsi said the generals were staging a coup and subverting the will of the people.
In Tahrir Square, however, the military announcement hours later was greeted with jubilation reminiscent of the first days of the Arab Spring two years ago. Tens of thousands of people shot fireworks, sang, danced, chanted and waved Egyptian flags.
The whereabouts of the president, an Islamist backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, were unknown. A day earlier, he had vowed to stay in power and said he was prepared to die for the cause.
The ouster will remake the politics of the Middle East at a volatile time. Egypt is the most populous country in the region, has a peace treaty with Israel and is a partner of the United States. The Obama administration declined to take a side in recent days, saying only that it was committed to democracy.
The meeting convened by the military earlier in the day included Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the U.N. nuclear weapons agency and a critic of Morsi, as well as a leading Sunni Muslim cleric and the head of Egypt’s Coptic Christians.
The military had given Morsi 48 hours to step aside or share power. In a statement posted to Facebook in the final hours before the deadline, the military swore its own fight to the death.
“We swear to God to sacrifice with our blood for Egypt and its people against any terrorist, extremist or ignoramus,” the military said in a statement. “Long live Egypt and its proud people.”
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