CAIRO, EGYPT: As the deadline set by the Egyptian army expired, troops rolled into Cairo and Alexandria and forced the democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi from his office.
Troops took over the state television on Wednesday. Hours later, the Egyptian military commander General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi addressed the nation in a televised speech and laid out the road map for the return of democracy to the country.
Al-Sisi said that the Egyptian Constitution was temporarily suspended, and that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court will be incharge for the transition period.
He added that the Egyptian army had acted after it was called on by the people to protect them. He added that President Morsi, despite numerous meetings and chances, had failed to reconcile.
President Morsi’s aide in a statement on his official Facebook page had earlier called the army’s efforts as a “military coup.”
Earlier, Egypt President Mohamed Morsi had offered a consensus government, as the military’s deadline to the President to meet the demands of his people or face intervention expired on Wednesday at 4:30pm.
Morsi rejected the ultimatum and insisted he would defend his constitutional legitimacy to the end, raising fears of a clash as supporters and opponents of the president took to the streets in their thousands.
Egypt’s army commander and Morsi each pledged to die for his cause as a deadline neared on Wednesday that would trigger a military takeover backed by protesters.
Military chiefs, vowing to restore order in a country racked by demonstrations over Morsi’s 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 Morsi refused to give up his elected office.
Less than three hours before the ultimatum was due to expire for Morsi to agree to share power or make way for an army-imposed solution, the president’s spokesperson said it was better that he die in defence of democracy than be blamed by history.
In an emotional, rambling midnight television address, Morsi said he was democratically elected and would stay in office to uphold the constitutional order, declaring: “The price of preserving legitimacy is my life.”
Liberal opponents said that showed he had “lost his mind”.
Two army armoured vehicles took up position outside state broadcasting headquarters on the Nile River bank and most staff were evacuated from the building, security sources said.
The state news agency MENA said civil servants were occupying the cabinet office and would not let Prime Minister Hisham Kandil enter the building.
The official spokesperson of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement said supporters were willing to become martyrs to defend him.
“There is only one thing we can do: we will stand in between the tanks and the president,” Gehad El-Haddad told Reuters 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.”
The Egypt25 television station owned and run by the Brotherhood was continuing to broadcast live split-screen coverage of pro-Morsi demonstrations.
The state-run Al-Ahram newspaper said Morsi was expected to either step down or be removed from office and the army would set up a three-member presidential council to be chaired by the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court.
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.
Political sources said armed forces commander General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met the main liberal opposition leader, Nobel peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, the heads of the Muslim and Christian religious authorities and leaders of smaller parties on Wednesday. A military source denied that Sisi and ElBaradei were meeting.
A military spokesperson said there was no time set for an official statement or speech by the armed forces command.
Sisi had called in a statement on Monday for Morsi to agree within 48 hours on power-sharing with other political forces, saying the military would otherwise set out its own roadmap for the country’s future.
More than 20 people have died and hundreds have been injured in clashes between Morsi’s supporters and opponents since the eruption of mass protests on June 30.