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Egyptian army detains Morsi, promises early elections


Egypt's army said Thursday it was "preventively" holding ousted president Mohammed Morsi in the defence ministry after it overthrew his government just a year after he came to power in the country's first democratic elections.


Egypt’s army said it was “preventively” holding ousted president Mohammed Morsi in the defence ministry on Thursday after it overthrew his Islamist-led government just one year after he became the country’s first democratically elected president.

The military-led coup was hailed by ordinary Egyptians across the country. As army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced that Morsi’s rule was over, a huge crowd in Cairo’s Tahrir Square celebrated with singing, dancing and fireworks.

Morsi came under intense pressure after the army issued a 48-hour ultimatum on Monday for him to step down.

The military said Morsi was detained along with a dozen presidential aides after he urged supporters on national television to support his “legitimacy” and resist the military “peacefully”.

“We had to confront it at some point, this threatening rhetoric,” an officer told the AFP news agency. “He succeeded in creating enmity between Egyptians.”

Police also began rounding up leaders of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement. Saad al-Katatni, head of Morsi's Freedom and Justice Party, was put in custody and 300 arrest warrants have been issued for Brotherhood officials.

Some reports said Morsi could potentially face charges related to his escape from jail in 2011, amid the unrest that led to the popular overthrow of long-time Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak.

The army also shut down three television channels deemed supportive of the toppled government, including one owned by the Brotherhood and the Qatar-owned Al Jazeera network.

Days before Morsi’s downfall, millions of Egyptians angry about a declining economy and lack of representation in the Muslim Brotherhood-controlled government marched across the country.

On several occasions, protesters clashed with Morsi supporters, also out in force, leading to at least 50 deaths.

As General Sisi announced Morsi’s ouster on Wednesday, army tanks and trucks surrounded pro-Morsi rallies in fear of an outbreak of fresh violence.

At least seven of Morsi's supporters were killed in clashes with security forces in Alexandria and the eastern city of Marsa Matrouh, security officials said.

Roadmap but no timetable

The army said that the current constitution drafted by Islamists would be temporarily suspended and would be reviewed in due time. It also promised early elections, in line with a new roadmap Egypt’s opposition helped craft.

Liberal opposition leader Mohamed El Baradei, former head of the UN nuclear watchdog, sat beside Sisi as he announced on state television that Morsi's rule was over.

The army chief, who was appointed defence minister by Morsi himself, was flanked by the head of the Coptic Church and Muslim spiritual leaders, in a well-orchestrated scene meant to reflect broad support for Morsi’s forced exit.

The roadmap is meant to wipe clear a slate of messy democratic reforms enacted since Morsi took over, and is supposed to lead to presidential and parliamentary elections. However, there was no timetable for the new changes.

World leaders expressed concern for the coup that toppled Morsi, with US President Barack Obama calling for a swift return to democratic rule.

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