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Egypt army ousts, detains, president Morsi

An Egyptian family celebrates in Cairo on July 3, 2013
An Egyptian family celebrates in Cairo on July 3, 2013. Egypt's army ousted and detained Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on Wednesday after a week of deadly clashes and mass protests calling for him to go after a year in office.

Egypt's army overthrew and detained the country's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in an abrupt end to the Islamist's first year in office following days of bloodshed and protests demanding his resignation.

A senior military officer told AFP on Thursday the army was "preventively" holding Morsi, whose government unravelled after the military gave him a 48 hour ultimatum in the wake of massive demonstrations against him on June 30, exactly a year into his rule.

Morsi's defence minister, armed forces chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, announced Morsi's overthrow on state television on Wednesday, even as police began rounding up key Morsi aides and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egypt's chief justice Adly al-Mansour will serve as interim president until new presidential elections, according to the army's plan.

Mansour, a hitherto little known judge, is expected to be sworn in on Thursday.

Warrants have been issued for the arrest of a total of 300 Brotherhood officials, state media reported.

Thousands of protesters camped out on the streets of Cairo for days celebrated wildly at the news of Morsi's downfall, letting off fireworks and sounding car horns.

Egypt's powerful armed forces
Graphic with photos explaining the role of Egypt's army in the country's political life

But 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.

The official MENA news agency also reported three people killed in the southern province of Minya when pro-Morsi supporters attacked the Islamist's opponents.

Already in the last week leading up to Morsi's downfall, at least 50 people died in clashes between the Islamist's supporters and opponents.

Morsi "is being held preventively for final preparations," the military official said, suggesting the Islamist might face formal charges over accusations made by his opponents.

Morsi had been summoned for questioning by a court over his escape, along with other inmates, from prison during the revolt that overthrew his predecessor Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Fireworks light up the sky as hundreds of thousands of Egyptians celebrate in Tahrir square on July 3, 2013 in Cairo
Fireworks light up the sky as hundreds of thousands of Egyptians celebrate in Tahrir square on July 3, 2013 in Cairo.

The military official suggested he may now be charged by prosecutors in the case.

Morsi was detained along with senior aides after issuing a defiant call for supporters to protect his elected "legitimacy", in a recorded speech hours after the military announced his ouster.

"We had to confront it at some point, this threatening rhetoric," the military officer said.

"He succeeded in creating enmity between Egyptians," he added.

Police have begun arresting leaders of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement, an interior ministry general told AFP. Saad al-Katatni, head of Morsi's Freedom and Justice Party, was already in custody, he added.

Thousands of Morsi's supporters remained camped out in northern Cairo, but Egyptian television stations stopped broadcasting live feeds of the pro-Morsi rally after the military announced his overthrow.

US President Barak Obama said he was "deeply concerned" over Morsi's ouster and urged the army to refrain to "arbitrary arrests" of Morsi and his supporters.

In May, Washington approved $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt. That was now under review, said Obama, as he called for a swift return to democratic rule.

A grab taken from Egyptian TV shows Egyptian Defence Minister Abdelfatah al-Sisi delivering a statement on July 3, 2013
An image grab taken from Egyptian state TV shows Egyptian Defence Minister Abdelfatah al-Sisi delivering a statement on July 3, 2013.

In his speech, Sisi laid out details of the roadmap for a political transition.

The Islamist-drafted constitution would be frozen and presidential elections held early, he said, without specifying when.

The armed forces, which had deployed troops and armour across the country, would "remain far away from politics," he stressed.

In Cairo, celebrations at the news began immediately.

"It's a new historical moment. We got rid of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood," said one celebrator, Omar Sherif.

In an amateur video posted online after Sisi's announcement on Wednesday, Morsi declared: "I am the elected president of Egypt" and urged people to "defend this legitimacy".

Morsi's opponents had accused him of failing the 2011 revolution by concentrating power in the hands of his Muslim Brotherhood.

His year in power was marked by a spiralling economic crisis, shortages in fuel and often deadly opposition protests.

The embattled 61-year-old had proposed a "consensus government" as a way out of the crisis, the worst since the 2011 uprising that ended three decades of authoritarian rule by Hosni Mubarak.

But it failed to satisfy his critics and the army stepped in.

Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the UN nuclear watchdog, sat beside army chief Sisi as he announced on state television that Morsi's rule was over.

So too did the heads of the Coptic Church and Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning.

The choreography was designed to show broad civilian support for the military's move against Morsi.

Already, the security forces have shut down broadcasts from a Muslim Brotherhood television channel, a Morsi aide told AFP.

Staff of Al-Jazeera's Egyptian affiliate were also arrested after the channel aired a defiant speech by the deposed president, the station reported.

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