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Egyptian army overthrows President and suspends Constitution

 
 
 
 
 
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Celebrations broke out after the head of Egypt’s armed forces issued a declaration suspending the constitution

Celebrations were taking place across Egypt this evening after the military chief said President Mohammed Morsi had been forced out.

The head of Egypt’s armed forces issued a declaration 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 elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.

The president’s aide has said the Egyptian leader Morsi has been moved to an undisclosed location.

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.

‘The people and the army are one hand,’ protestors cheered in the square, amid the roar of horns and chanting.

Two U.S. officials have said Egyptian defence leaders, who ousted the president, have assured the U.S. that they are not interested in a long-term rule.

The official says the leaders, in calls with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pledged to put a civilian government in place quickly.

U.S. officials also say the Egyptian military has said it will take steps to ensure the safety of Americans in Egypt, including the diplomatic mission.

Meanwhile, a statement on the Egyptian president’s office’s Twitter account has quoted Mohammed Morsi as calling military measures ‘a full coup’.

The Egyptian president’s national security adviser had warned earlier today that a military coup was underway and there would be ‘considerable bloodshed’ as millions of thousands of people took to the streets.

With troops and tanks taking up positions in keys part of major Egyptian cities and tensions high, there were unconfirmed reports that President Mohammed Morsi was under house arrest after the deadline set by the army for him to reach an agreement with opposition protestors expired.

Egyptian protesters demonstrating against President Mohamed Morsi, in Tahrir Square, Cairo today. One of his top advisers has said the country is experiencing a coup

His security adviser Essam El-Haddad said Mr Morsi was calling for peaceful resistance to the army’s ‘unlawful’ move against the democratically elected leader but stressed his supporters should not use violence.

However, he added : ‘In this day and age no military coup can succeed in the face of sizeable popular force without considerable bloodshed.

‘There are still people in Egypt who believe in their right to make a democratic choice. Hundreds of thousands of them have gathered in support of democracy and the presidency. And they will not leave in the face of this attack. To move them, there will have to be violence.’

Nearly 40 people have died so far since the unprecedented protests began in Sunday and last night there were reports of bloody clashes between Islamist supporters of Mr Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood and troops in the capital Cairo.

With millions of anti-Morsi protestors on the streets of dozens of cities and towns celebrating in the belief the military is on their side and facing the president’s supporters, there were fears the death toll would rise significantly.

Mr Morsi had spent today working normally at a regular presidential office in a compound of the Republican Guard in suburban Cairo, officials said, while senior military figures held a series of meetings with opposition leaders aimed at ending the crisis.

There had been no official word from the military, who had said repeatedly there would not be a coup, but soldiers were seen erecting barbed wire around the compound.

A military source said he expected the army to first call political, social and economic figures and youth activists for talks on its draft roadmap for the country’s future.

But observers said it certainly appeared to be a coup just one year after Mr Morsi was elected at the ballot box.

In a further sign of the extent of the military control, airport officials said a travel ban had been issued against Mr Morsi and Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie as well as his deputy Khairat el-Shater.

Officials said the travel ban is linked to Mr Morsi’s escape from prison with more than 30 other Muslim Brotherhood figures during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising against autocrat ex-president Hosni Mubarak.

As the afternoon ultimatum set by the army approached, the military had moved to tighten its control on key institutions, even putting officers in the newsroom of state TV with neither side prepared to compromise.

Crack troops were deployed in news-production areas. Officers from the army’s media department moved inside the newsroom and were monitoring output, though not yet interfering, staffers said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk about the arrangements.

Military chiefs, vowing to restore order in a country racked by demonstrations against Mr Morsi’s Islamist policies, issued a call to battle in a statement headlined ‘The Final Hours’. They said they were willing to shed blood against ‘terrorists and fools’ after Mr Morsi refused to give up his elected office.

The president’s spokesman countered that it was better that he die in defence of democracy than be blamed by history.

In an emotional, rambling midnight television address, Mr Morsi insisted he was democratically elected and would stay in office to uphold the constitutional order, declaring: ‘The price of preserving legitimacy is my life.’

‘There is only one thing we can do: we will stand in between the tanks and the president,’ Mr El-Haddad said at the movement’s protest encampment in a Cairo suburb that houses many military installations and is near the presidential palace.

‘We will not allow the will of the Egyptian people to be bullied again by the military machine.’

Prime Minister David Cameron earlier today issued a plea for an end to violence in Egypt, as The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) warned against all but essential travel to most parts of the country.

Mr Cameron said Mr Morsi must show he is responsive to the concerns of its citizens, adding : ‘These are deeply disturbing scenes, the level of violence is appalling. We should appeal to all sides to calm and stop the levels of violence, and particularly sexual assaults.’

Mr Cameron continued : ‘It is not for this country to support any single group or party. What we should support is proper democratic processes and proper government by consent.

‘Very clear messages have been sent to president Morsi – including by President Obama who spoke to him directly, and we have also been communicating through our ambassadors – that, yes, he has a democratic mandate and we respect that, but democracy also means ensuring that everyone has a voice and that leaders have a responsibility to represent all Egyptians and show they are responsive to their concerns.

‘That’s what the government needs to do in order to bring about peace and stability in that country.’

Meanwhile, the FCO is advising against travel to all regions of Egypt except resorts on the Red Sea in South Sinai and in the Red Sea Governorate on the Egyptian mainland.

There are no travel restriction warnings for destinations in the region of Sharm el Sheikh, Taba, Nuweiba and Dahab which are popular with sun-seeking British tourists.

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