Military Coup Underway In Egypt [Update: Morsi Deposed]
if reports are to be believed, there is a coup d'etat underway in Egypt.
It’s only been a few hours since the deadline set by the Egyptian military for some type of unspecified solution to the political crisis precipitated by the massive protests that started on Sunday has passed and, already, it appears that something major and important is happening:
CAIRO — With a potentially violent showdown looming between Egypt’s military and the Islamist backers of President Mohamed Morsi, the country’s top generals summoned civilian political leaders to an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss a new interim government while moving tanks toward the presidential palace and restricting Mr. Morsi’s travel — new signals of an impending military takeover. A top presidential adviser said a coup already was under way.
The developments came as street tensions intensified and a 48-hour deadline imposed by the military generals on the increasingly isolated president to meet the demands of millions of unhappy Egyptians came and went.
By 6:30 p.m. military forces began moving around Cairo. Tanks and troops headed for the presidential palace — although it was unclear whether Mr. Morsi was inside — while other soldiers ringed the nearby square where tens of thousands of the president’s supporters were rallying.
Many of the Islamists had armed themselves with makeshift clubs, shields made of potcovers or metal scraps and plastic hard hats, and there were small scuffles with the better-armed soldiers. Some soldiers fired their weapons in the air. But the military forces held back.
Soldiers also were seen erecting barbed-wire fences and barriers around a barracks were President Morsi may have been working, Reuters reported, quoting witnesses.
Mr. Morsi’s senior foreign policy adviser, Essam el-Haddad, issued an open letter Wednesday afternoon on his official Web page lamenting what he called the imminent takeover of Egypt’s first freely elected government.
“As I write these lines I am fully aware that these may be the last lines I get to post on this page,” he wrote. “For the sake of Egypt and for historical accuracy, let’s call what is happening by its real name: Military coup.”
Security officials said the military’s intelligence service had banned any travel by President Morsi and senior Islamist aides, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme guide, Mohamed Badie, and his influential deputy, Khairat el-Shater.
People close to the president said at around the same time that talks with the generals continued but looked increasingly futile. A decisive move was expected within hours, these people said, although the president and his advisers remained at liberty.
With millions of Egyptians waiting to see what the military would do, Mr. Morsi reiterated in a Facebook posting what he had said in a long and rambling televised speech Tuesday night, vowing to stay in power as Egypt’s first democratically elected president following the 2011 revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak.
“The presidency reaffirms that violating constitutional legitimacy threatens democratic practice by veering off the right track and threatens the freedom of expression that Egypt has lived since the revolution,” the statement said.
Among those called to the meeting with the generals was Mohamed ElBaradei, the former United Nations diplomat who has been tapped by the protesters demanding Mr. Morsi’s ouster as one of their negotiators over a new interim government, Reuters reported, citing unnamed official sources.
Mr. ElBaradei has been an outspoken critic of Mr. Morsi and his allies in the Muslim Brotherhood, the Constitution they pushed to a referendum and the previous period of military rule. He has declined to comment in his current position. News agencies reported that top Muslim and Christian religious authorities were invited as well.
Gehad el-Haddad, a Brotherhood spokesman, vowed that the group would not bend in its defiance of the military. “The only plan,” he said in a statement posted online, “is to stand in front of the tanks.”
More from NBC News:
CAIRO — An adviser to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi said Wednesday that a military coup was underway, that tanks were on the move outside Cairo and that communication with the president had been cut off.
As a military deadline came and went for Morsi to step aside, the army took control of state television, and boisterous crowds opposed to the president cheered, danced and set off fireworks in Tahrir Square. Pro-Morsi forces rallied elsewhere in the Egyptian capital.
The president’s whereabouts were not clear. The Morsi adviser, Jihad Haddad, told NBC News that he could not confirm or deny whether Morsi had moved from Republican Guard headquarters. It was not clear whether the military had ordered the Republican Guard to keep him there.
Representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, which supports Morsi, said that some of its leaders had been rounded up and arrested.
Earlier in the day, both the president and the military had sworn a fight to the death in their struggle for control of the country. The military leader, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, said it would be an honor to die rather than subject the Egyptian people to threats or terror.
In something of a call to arms, the military posted on Facebook: “We swear to God to sacrifice with our blood for Egypt and its people against any terrorist, extremist or ignoramus. Long live Egypt and its proud people.”
The government said at least 16 people had been killed and about 200 injured in clashes with security forces at Cairo University.
The military has said it will impose its own “road map” for the future if Morsi does not meet the protesters’ demands.
In his speech, which was loud and passionate, Morsi blamed loyalists of Mubarak, his predecessor, for fighting against democracy and challenging his leadership through the current wave of protests.
He asked Egyptians not to confront the military or use violence against its forces, the police or the interior ministry. Earlier in the day, he had demanded that the armed forces withdraw their ultimatum.
The Muslim Brotherhood, backing Morsi, called for counter-demonstrations, and a pro-Morsi rally in a Cairo suburb appeared to attract about 100,000 people, journalists for Reuters said.
The U.S. Embassy warned Americans in Egypt to avoid large gatherings and monitor local news.
“Even demonstrations or events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence,” it said, adding the embassy was closed.
As the BBC reports, Egyptians are now awaiting a statement from the military. As was the case when the protests were ongoing against Hosni Mubarak two years ago, there are a lot of rumors floating about what exactly is going on on the streets of Egypt, and since everything that’s being reported right now is based on second hand reports and self-serving statements, it’s best to take things with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, the reports we do have, which include the military seizing the state-run television station and newspaper, surrounding the Presidential Palace where Morsi was believed to be located, and surrounding the pro-Morsi crowd in Cairo but not (apparently) the anti-Morsi crowd, seems to suggest that the Egyptian military is stepping back into the political scene in a big way. What that means for the future is unclear.
The Muslim Brotherhood has, to date, maintained that it is standing by Morsi’s statements that he is the legitimately elected President of Egypt and that, under the Constitution, any attempt to depose him would be illegitimate. There have also been threats of violence and jihad if Morsi actually is overthrown. So, even if the military does succeed in overthrowing Morsi today and replacing him with a regime that they control, likely headed by Mohammed el-Baradei, this could only be the opening act in a political and religious conflict that could tear the Arab world’s largest nations to shreds in a very short period of time. The consequences of that for the Middle East should be rather obvious, and they aren’t likely to be very good at all.
Update: It’s being reported by multiple sources that Morsi has been informed by the military that he is no longer President and, at this moment (3:00pm ET), the Defense Minister is making a statement regarding the matter. It is expected that a military backed government headed by Mohammed el-Baradei and others will be put in place, that the Parliament and Constitution will be dissolved, and some kind of transition plan will be put in place. What the details of that are, and how Morsi’s supporters will react to all of this, are the details that are likely to unfold over the coming hours and days. At the very least, though, yes, there’s been a military coup in Egypt and Mohamed Morsi is no longer in power, the military is back in control, and nobody really knows where Egypt is headed from here.
Here’s the latest from al-Jazeera:
The Egyptian army has overthrown President Mohamed Morsi, announcing a roadmap for the country’s political future that will be implemented by a national reconciliation committee.
The head of Egypt’s armed forces issued a declaration on Wednesday evening suspending the constitution and appointing the head of the constitutional court as interim head of state.
In a televised broadcast, flanked by military leaders, religious authorities and political figures, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi effectively declared the removal of Morsi.
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 roadmap had been agreed by a range of political groups.
General al-Sisi also said in his statement that the military would be drafting a “Code of Ethics” for the media, which, of course, means censorship, although that’s not really anything new in Egypt.
More from the BBC:
The head of the Egyptian army has appeared live on television, announcing the suspension of the constitution.
General Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi, flanked by religious and military leaders, said the chief justice of constitutional court would take the powers of the presidency.
His announcement means President Mohammed Morsi is no longer in power.
Anti-Morsi protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square gave out a huge cheer in response to the speech.
The move follows four days of mass street protests against Mr Morsi, and an ultimatum issued by the military which expired on Wednesday afternoon.
After General Sisi’s address, both Pope Tawadros II, the head of the Coptic Church, and leading opposition figure Mohammed ElBaradei made short statements.
Update # 2: The White House has released a statement on today’s events in Egypt:
As I have said since the Egyptian Revolution, the United States supports a set of core principles, including opposition to violence, protection of universal human rights, and reform that meets the legitimate aspirations of the people. The United States does not support particular individuals or political parties, but we are committed to the democratic process and respect for the rule of law. Since the current unrest in Egypt began, we have called on all parties to work together to address the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people, in accordance with the democratic process, and without recourse to violence or the use of force.
The United States is monitoring the very fluid situation in Egypt, and we believe that ultimately the future of Egypt can only be determined by the Egyptian people. Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsy and suspend the Egyptian constitution. I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsy and his supporters. Given today’s developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the Government of Egypt.
The United States continues to believe firmly that the best foundation for lasting stability in Egypt is a democratic political order with participation from all sides and all political parties —secular and religious, civilian and military. During this uncertain period, we expect the military to ensure that the rights of all Egyptian men and women are protected, including the right to peaceful assembly, due process, and free and fair trials in civilian courts. Moreover, the goal of any political process should be a government that respects the rights of all people, majority and minority; that institutionalizes the checks and balances upon which democracy depends; and that places the interests of the people above party or faction. The voices of all those who have protested peacefully must be heard – including those who welcomed today’s developments, and those who have supported President Morsy. In the interim, I urge all sides to avoid violence and come together to ensure the lasting restoration of Egypt’s democracy.
No transition to democracy comes without difficulty, but in the end it must stay true to the will of the people. An honest, capable and representative government is what ordinary Egyptians seek and what they deserve. The longstanding partnership between the United States and Egypt is based on shared interests and values, and we will continue to work with the Egyptian people to ensure that Egypt’s transition to democracy succeeds.