CAIRO // Mohammed Morsi was dramatically ousted last night after a year as president of Egypt.
He will be replaced by Adly Al Mansour, the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, as interim head of state. The defence minister, Gen Abdel Fattah El Sisi, made the announcement in a live television address.
Gen El Sisi said Mr Morsi had failed to respond to military requests to reach an agreement with his political opponents.
He said the military had consulted political, religious and youth leaders to agree on a road map for Egypt's future.
The constitution, criticised by the opposition for its Islamist leanings, has been suspended and Mr Al Mansour will lead an interim technocrat government in readiness for fresh elections.
Mr Morsi issued a statement last night rejecting the coup by the military and calling on his supporters to resist it, but to avoid bloodshed.
Earlier, armoured vehicles and troops in combat gear had moved on to the streets of Cairo amid signs that the military was about to seize power from Egypt's first democratically elected leader.
Security forces banned Mr Morsi from travel, hundreds of soldiers paraded near the presidential palace and one of the president's aides said a coup was under way.
The atmosphere was one of extraordinary tension after Mr Morsi failed to meet the military's deadline to reach an agreement with an opposition movement that has rallied millions on to the streets to demonstrate against his regime.
Army officers secured key institutions, including the state television building not far from Tahrir Square, where thousands of people chanted for Mr Morsi to "Leave now!"
Officials at the airport said a travel ban had been placed on Mr Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood chief Mohammed Badie and his deputy, Khairat El Shater.
Many observers drew comparisons with the 2011 uprising that forced Hosni Mubarak to resign the presidency after nearly 30 years of autocratic rule. Then, as now, the military played the role of final arbiter by siding with demonstrators against the government.
As the 4.30pm deadline imposed by the military drew near, Mr Morsi's office issued a statement offering to appoint a new "unity" government and establish a committee to amend the constitution.
"One mistake that cannot be accepted, and I say this as president of all Egyptians, is to take sides," Mr Morsi said. "Justice dictates that the voice of the masses from all squares should be heard."
Mr Morsi’s defiant tone echoed a speech he made late on Tuesday in which he angrily maintained that he was the legitimate, elected leader of Egypt. He criticised the military for “taking only one side”.
In that speech, Mr Morsi blamed Egypt’s basket-case economy and political disagreements on a conspiracy by remnants of the Mubarak regime and corrupt forces working to undermine the democratic transition. He pledged to defend his position with his own life.
A sign of the dwindling chances for Mr Morsi to stay in power was evident in an afternoon statement from Essam El Haddad, the president’s top foreign affairs aide.
“As I write these lines I am fully aware that these may be the last lines I get to post on this page,” he wrote on his official Facebook account. “For the sake of Egypt and for historical accuracy, let’s call what is happening by its real name: military coup.”
Egyptians were glued to television sets, radios and mobile phones throughout the day as rumours swirled about developments and crackdowns on Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
The military’s overthrow of Mr Morsi, is the first time a country that had its government overturned by the Arab Spring wave of unrest in 2010 and 2011 has cast its newly elected leader out of power – a scenario that will have ramifications across the region.
The army’s “road map for the future” suspends the constitution and dissolves the Islamist-dominated upper house of parliament, with a short period of interim rule to be followed by presidential and parliamentary elections.
The defence minister, Gen Abdel Fattah El Sisi, the top military commander who issued the ultimatum on Monday, met Mr ElBaradei, the grand sheikh and Pope Tawadros yesterday to discuss the immediate future, according to Khaled Daoud, spokesman for the opposition National Salvation Front.
The military coup raised the stakes in what could be a bloody battle between Mr Morsi’s Islamist supporters and anti-government protesters. Members of Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood have seen the military’s manoeuvring as an explicitly anti-Islamist strategy and have vowed to defend the president with their lives.
On Tuesday night, at least 16 people were killed and 200 injured in fresh clashes between the warring sides – bringing the total death toll in the past week close to 50.
Mr Morsi was elected a year ago with a thin margin, winning just 51.7 per cent of the vote, thanks in part to liberals who could not stomach the thought of choosing the alternative, Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister.
But he quickly lost support from all but his Islamist base with a series of heavy-handed decrees giving himself greater power and allowing the government to be monopolised by the Brotherhood.
A worsening economy also contributed to popular rage, with the protracted stand-off scaring away investors and making life more difficult for the poor.
* Additional reporting by Reuters and Agence France-Presse