Egyptian military says it has ousted Morsi; crowds celebrate in - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Egyptian military says it has ousted Morsi; crowds celebrate in Cairo

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CAIRO — The Egyptian military said Wednesday that it had ousted President Mohammed Morsi and suspended the country's constitution. Armored cars, tanks and troops deployed in the capital in what advisers to the president described as a coup.

In a scene reminiscent of the earliest days of the Arab Spring, tens of thousands of Egyptians who had demanded the president's ouster staged a jubilant celebration in Tahrir Square — dancing, cheering and setting off fireworks.

Earlier in the day, the president and the military each swore to fight to the death for control of the country, and a military deadline for Morsi to step aside came and went with no statement from the president.

"We swear to God to sacrifice with our blood for Egypt and its people against any terrorist, extremist or ignoramus," the military said in a statement. "Long live Egypt and its proud people."

The army took control of state television and sent troops to parts of Cairo where crowds sympathetic to Morsi had gathered. Supporters of the president said democracy was being subverted by a military intervention, and the Muslim Brotherhood, which backs Morsi, said some of its leaders had been arrested.

Civilian political, religious and youth leaders were summoned to meet with the top generals and planned a statement later in the day. Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the U.N. nuclear weapons agency and a critic of Morsi, attended the meeting, as did a  leading Sunni Muslim cleric and the head of Egypt's Coptic Christians.

At least 16 people were killed and more than 200 injured in clashes, primarily around Cairo University.

In Washington, the State Department said it could not confirm reports of a coup but was watching the situation closely. The U.S. Embassy warned Americans in Egypt to avoid large gatherings and monitor local news.

One of the advisers to Morsi, Jihad Haddad, told NBC News that he could not confirm or deny whether Morsi had moved from Republican Guard headquarters, where he was believed to have been staying earlier in the day. It was also not clear whether the military had ordered the Republican Guard to keep him there.

Morsi was elected a year ago after Egyptians ousted Hosni Mubarak, the autocrat who ruled for almost three decades. Egyptians hoped he would build a more pluralistic and tolerant country.

Instead, Egyptians have been frustrated by a struggling economy and poor services and infuriated by what they see as power grabs by Morsi — stifling the judiciary and forcing through a constitution that favored Islamists and ignored minorities.

The celebration in Tahrir Square only grew as night fell Wednesday. People waved Egyptian flags, sang patriotic songs and chanted, as though Morsi had already been removed from power.

The military was believed to have given the president until 5 p.m. local time, or 11 a.m. ET, to meet the demands of the protesters. The ultimatum, issued Monday, had been denounced by supporters of Morsi as a military coup.

Sources told NBC News that the army had control of state television. Non-essential staff were told to go home early, and Reuters reported that the building was being guarded by armored vehicles. The Associated Press reported that military officers were monitoring broadcasts.

There were other signs that support for Morsi was slipping, even among sympathizers. A senior member of a hardline Islamist party allied with the president told Reuters that the party was trying to broker a peaceful transfer of power to avoid bloodshed.

"We find ourselves faced with the necessity of convincing the president to accept a referendum on early presidential elections," Tarek al-Zumar of Gamaa Islamiya said in a telephone interview. "This is what we hope will be reached in the next few hours."

The Obama administration and the United Nations have encouraged Morsi to listen to his people. President Barack Obama called Morsi on Monday and said the United States is committed to democracy and does not support any single person or group.

Pentagon officials said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had called his Egyptian counterpart. Spokesman George Little called the situation in Egypt a crisis and added the hope that "this period of tension can be resolved in a peaceful manner and violence can be avoided."

The opposition Dustour Party, whose name means Constitution, said Morsi was leading the country toward violence. It asked the army to protect the people "after Morsi lost his mind and incited bloodshed of Egyptians."

The military has said it will impose its own "road map" for the future if Morsi does not meet the protesters' demands.

In a loud, passionate, 45-minute speech to the country, Morsi on Tuesday blamed loyalists of Mubarak, his predecessor, for fighting against democracy and challenging his leadership through the current wave of protests.

He asked Egyptians not to confront the military or use violence against its forces, the police or the interior ministry. Earlier in the day, he had demanded that the armed forces withdraw their ultimatum.

The crisis could have a significant effect on the global economy. The benchmark price of crude oil for delivery in August rose above $102 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest since early May last year.

Egypt's control of the Suez Canal — one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, which links the Mediterranean with the Red Sea — gives it a crucial role in maintaining global energy supplies.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Ian Johnston reported from London and Erin McClam from New York.

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