Egyptian Military Announces Transitional Government, Clashes With Muslim Brotherhood

by Will Allen

Gen. Abdul al-Sisi, commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, announced earlier this afternoon that the military has removed Mohammed Morsi.  For the most recent update, scroll to the bottom of this post.

Reuters quotes an aide to Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi describing a “military coup” underway in Egypt :

In a show of force, several hundred soldiers with armored vehicles staged a parade on a main road near the presidential palace, and security sources said Mursi and the entire senior leadership of his Muslim Brotherhood were banned from leaving the country.

“For the sake of Egypt and for historical accuracy, let’s call what is happening by its real name: military coup,” national security adviser Essam El-Haddad said in a statement, warning of “considerable bloodshed” .

A presidential aide said Mursi was working at a Republican Guard barracks in a Cairo suburb, near to his office, and had chosen to stay there. Other close advisers were allowed to leave the compound after the 5 p.m. (11:00 a.m. EDT) deadline expired.

Meanwhile, Arabic newspaper al-Hayat carries an additional report (via KABC in Los Angeles) that Morsi has been placed under house arrest by the Egyptian military.  Also according to Reuters, state news agency MENA has announced that opposition leader Mohammed al-Baradei, Pope Tawadros of the Coptic Church, and the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar University “will jointly present a roadmap for a political transition shortly.”

Update: The Egyptian military is releasing a statement in which they are promising “suspend the constitution,” “end the conflict,” and form “a technocrat government to run this transitional period.”  Fox News has live video here.

Update: Gen. Abdul al-Sisi read the statement to the press, flanked by the pope of the Coptic Church and the rector of al-Azhar, as indicated above.  Gen. al-Sisi announced that President Morsi has been removed from office and replaced by Maher al-Beheiry, chief judge of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court.  Al-Beheiry will lead the transitional government, which will supervise new parliamentary elections to be held soon.

Update: CNN just televised a brief statement by opposition leader Mohammed al-Baradei.  The following excerpts are loosely translated from Arabic:

The constitution will be amended so . . . we agree on a democratic constitution to guarantee our freedoms.  The plan will include a national reconciliation effort, so that all of us can [move forward]. I hope that this roadmap is a new beginning to continue the May 25th revolution, which the Egyptian people have sacrificed dearly to achieve.  And forward, by the grace of God.

Al-Baradei, a former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and 2005 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, is a popular figure among many of the moderate and secular elements in the opposition.

Update: The wheareabouts of apparently deposed Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi are unknown; but as of nine minutes ago, a Twitter account in his name continued to update. One message read in part: “The armed forces announcement is rejected by all free men who struggled for a democratic Egypt.”

Update: Video of Gen. al-Sisi’s speech is now available at the top of this post.  Meanwhile, CNN reports that Morsi’s Twitter account recently posted this message: “The measures announced by the armed forces leadership represent a full coup, categorically rejected by all the free men of our nation.”

Update: CNN reports that Tahrir Square demonstrators are protesting not only the Muslim Brotherhood but also U.S. president Barack Obama and U.S. ambassador Anne Patterson. The network’s Middle East correspondent, Reza Sayah, told Jake Tapper:

Egyptians love Americans, but they don’t love U.S. foreign policy. . . . Earlier today the leaders of the campaign, this rebel campaign with this petition drive, [came out] with a hard statement aimed at Washington, suggesting that Washington should stay out of Egypt’s affairs, accusing Washington of trying to impose its will on Egypt for the interests of Israel.

A banner visible in the segment above reads “Obama Stop Supporting MB Fascist Regime.”

Update: Fox News reports that pro-Morsi demonstrators are clashing violently with the army, which had sought to cordon off Muslim Brotherhood-dominated areas in Cairo including the large suburb of Nasr City. Foreign correspondent Connor Powell also told Fox that the Coptic Christian community has “had a lot of input” into the making of the new Constitution. Meanwhile, President Obama, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, and CIA Director John Brennan are reportedly meeting at the White House.

Update: The U.S. Embassy in Cairo has ordered the evacuation of all non-essential personnel. Via the Associated Press.

Update: The U.S. State Department has released a travel warning which urges “U.S. citizens to defer travel to Egypt and U.S. citizens living in Egypt to depart at this time because of the continuing political and social unrest.”  The statement confirms earlier reports of violence in Cairo, Alexandria, and Port Said, as the military vies with armed supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood for control of urban areas.  The warning continues:

Political unrest, which intensified prior to the constitutional referendum in December 2012 and the anniversary in 2013 of Egypt’s 25th January Revolution, is likely to worsen in the near future due to unrest focused on the first anniversary of the President’s assumption of office. Demonstrations have, on occasion, degenerated into violent clashes between police and protesters, and between protesters supporting different factions, resulting in deaths, injuries, and extensive property damage. Participants have thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails and security forces have used tear gas and other crowd control measures against demonstrators. There are numerous reports of the use of firearms as well. While violent protests have occurred in major metropolitan areas, including downtown Cairo, Alexandria, and Port Said, the security situation in most tourist centers, including Luxor, Aswan, and Red Sea resorts such as Sharm el Sheikh, continues to be calm.

The full statement is available here.

Update: The Washington Post reports that the military have arrested Saad al-Katatni, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, and Rashad Bayoumi, one of the Brotherhood’s top deputies.  Additionally, Reuters relays a report from the Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram that the coup leaders have issued 300 arrest warrants for supporters of former president Mohammed Morsi.

Separately, President Barack Obama has released a statement on the coup, expressing “deep concern” over Morsi’s removal and calling on the armed forces to “move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible . . . and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsy and his supporters.” Obama also promised to review “the implications under U.S. law” of the coup for America’s longstanding and generous aid to the Egyptian military. The full statement is reprinted below:

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.

Update: NBC News reports that ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi is currently being held at the Republican Guard Club in Cairo.  Most senior members of his administration have also been placed under house arrest.

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