Egypt rekindles turmoil as military ousts Morsi

At least 9 dead, 300 hurt in clashes after takeover

7/4/2013
BLADE NEWS SERVICES
Opponents of Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi shout and wave national flags in Liberation Square. Army troops, including commandos, have deployed across much of the Egyptian capital.
Opponents of Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi shout and wave national flags in Liberation Square. Army troops, including commandos, have deployed across much of the Egyptian capital.

CAIRO — Egypt’s military officers removed the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, on Wednesday, suspended the constitution, and installed an interim government.

Liberation Square, where tens of thousands of opponents of the government had gathered each night since Sunday to demand Mr. Morsi’s removal, erupted in fireworks and jubilation at news of the ouster.

Military vehicles and soldiers in riot gear had surrounded the ongoing rally in the hours before the takeover and tensions escalated through the night.

Within hours, at least nine people had died and more than 300 were injured in clashes in 17 provinces between Mr. Morsi’s supporters and either civilian opponents or security forces.

The United States warned citizens to defer visits to Egypt and advised Americans there to leave.

The State Department has ordered the evacuation of “nonemergency U.S. government personnel and family members from Egypt due to the ongoing political and social unrest.”

President Obama urged Egypt’s military to hand back control to a democratic, civilian government without delay. He stopped short of calling the ouster of Mr. Morsi a coup.

Under U.S. law, the government must suspend foreign aid to any nation whose elected leader is ousted in a coup d’etat. The United States provides $1.5 billion a year to Egypt in military and economic assistance that is considered a critical U.S. national security priority.

Military special forces surround Nasser City in Cairo. Army troops have deployed across much of the Egyptian capital.
Military special forces surround Nasser City in Cairo. Army troops have deployed across much of the Egyptian capital.

For Mr. Morsi, it was a bitter and ignominious end to a tumultuous year of political battles that alienated millions of Egyptians.

Having won a narrow victory, his critics say, he broke his promises of an inclusive government and repeatedly demonized his opposition as traitors. With the economy crumbling, and with shortages of electricity and fuel, anger at the government mounted.

By the end of the night, Mr. Morsi was in military custody and blocked from all communications, one of his advisers said, and many of his senior aides could not be reached.

Egyptian security forces had arrested at least 38 senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Saad el-Katatni, the chief of the group’s political party, and others were being rounded up, security officials said.

No immediate reasons were given for the detentions.

In a series of maneuvers, the generals built their case for intervention, calling their actions an effort at “national reconciliation” and refusing to call their takeover a coup.

Gen. Abdul-Fattah El-Sissi, the defense minister, said during a televised news conference late Wednesday that the military had no interest in politics and was ousting Mr. Morsi because he had failed to fulfill “the hope for a national consensus.”

An opponent of Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi chants slogans during a protest outside the presidential palace in Cairo.
An opponent of Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi chants slogans during a protest outside the presidential palace in Cairo.

The general stood on a broad stage, flanked by Egypt’s top Muslim and Christian clerics and a spectrum of political leaders including Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel-prize winning diplomat and liberal icon, and Galal Morra, a prominent Islamist ultraconservative, or Salafi, all of whom endorsed the takeover.

The move plunged the generals back into political power for the second time in less than three years, following their ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Under a “road map” for a post-Morsi government devised by civilian political and religious leaders, General Sissi said, the constitution would be suspended, the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Adli Mansour, would become acting president, and plans would be expedited for new parliamentary and presidential elections under an interim government.

There was no mistaking the threat of force and signs of a crackdown.

Armored military vehicles rolled through the capital, surrounded the presidential palace, and ringed in the Islamists.

Police arrested at least two prominent Islamist television hosts and other workers at such channels.