CAIRO - Egypt's armed forces overthrew elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi on Wednesday and announced a political transition with the support of a wide range of political, religious and youth leaders.

After a day of drama in which tanks and troops deployed near the presidential palace as a military deadline for Morsi to yield to mass protests passed, the top army commander announced on television that the president had "failed to meet the demands of the Egyptian people".

Flanked by political and religious leaders and top generals, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced the suspension of the Islamist-tinged constitution and a roadmap for a return to democratic rule under a revised rulebook.

Morsi was being held by the authorities, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman and a security official said on Thursday.

Ahmed Aref, the Brotherhood spokesman, said both Morsi and Essam El-Haddad, a senior aide, were being held but he did not know where. A security official said they were being held at a military intelligence facility.

The president of the supreme constitutional court Adli Mansour will act as interim head of state, assisted by an interim council and a technocratic government until new presidential and parliamentary elections are held. Mansour will be sworn in on Thursday.

"Those in the meeting have agreed on a roadmap for the future that includes initial steps to achieve the building of a strong Egyptian society that is cohesive and does not exclude anyone and ends the state of tension and division," Sisi said in a solemn address broadcast live on state television.

After he spoke, hundreds of thousands of anti-Morsi protesters in central Cairo's Tahrir Square erupted into wild cheering, setting off fireworks and waving flags. Cars drove around the capital honking their horns in celebration.

But a statement published in Morsi's name on his official Facebook page after Sisi's speech said the measures announced amounted to "a full military coup" and were "totally rejected".

The Arab world's most populous nation has been in turmoil since the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak as Arab Spring uprisings took hold in early 2011, arousing concern among allies in the West and in Israel, with which Egypt has a 1979 peace treaty.

The Muslim Brotherhood president, in office for just a year, was at a Republican Guard barracks surrounded by barbed wire, barriers and troops, but it was not clear whether he was under arrest. The state newspaper Al-Ahram said the military had told Morsi at 7 p.m. (1700 GMT) that he was no longer head of state.

The television station of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood was taken off air and its managers arrested hours after Morsi was overthrown by the armed forces on Wednesday, state news agency MENA reported.

The Egypt25 channel had been broadcasting live coverage of rallies by tens of thousands of pro-Morsi demonstrators in Cairo and around the country, with speeches by leading Brotherhood politicians denouncing the military intervention to oust the elected president.

MORSI OPPONENTS AND SUPPORTERS CLASH 

At least 14 people were killed when Morsi opponents and supporters clashed after the army announced his removal on Wednesday, state media and officials said.

Eight of those reported dead were in the northern city of Marsa Matrouh. Al-Anani Hamouda, a senior provincial security official, said two members of security forces were among those killed in the clashes.

Three people were killed and at least 50 wounded in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, state news agency MENA reported. Gunfire broke out as rocks and bricks flew during the fighting, witnesses said.

One of the city's dead was a woman stabbed in the stomach, MENA said. The other two were men hit by birdshot.

"We are dealing with the situation. ... We have called for security reinforcements in the area," said senior police officer Sherif Abdelhamid.

Three people were also killed in the southern Egyptian city of Minya, including two police, MENA said. It said 14 people were wounded.

Dozens more were wounded in Fayoum, south of Cairo, where unidentified assailants broke into the local offices of the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood's political wing, MENA said.

The attackers looted the headquarters and set them on fire, it said. 

There was a brief outbreak of shooting early on Thursday around a gathering near a Cairo mosque of Morsi supporters but witnesses said it was not clear that anyone was injured.

Two officials of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood said armed men fired on the encampment and one said people were hit.

A Reuters correspondent at the scene later spoke to three people who had heard gunfire for a few minutes after 3 a.m. (0100 GMT) but saw no casualties. One man living in a nearby building said he believed people had been shooting in the air.

A wide area around the site has been cordoned off by the army since just before its announcement that Morsi had been removed and the constitution suspended. Troops have been letting demonstrators leave but not allowing people to enter the area. 

A senior Muslim Brotherhood politician said the Islamist group had no intention of using violence.

"There is absolutely no direction towards violence. The Brotherhood are not raised on violence. Their cause is a peaceful one, defending their rights, which is stronger than a military coup," Gamal Heshmat told Reuters by telephone.

A leading member of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, Heshmat said what the army had done amounted to a "shameful coup". Asked what the group would do next, he said, "We are still in the street, we still don't know if all of the armed forces will accept what Sisi has done."

"TERRORISTS AND FOOLS"

Military chiefs, vowing to restore order in a country racked by protests over Morsi's Islamist policies, earlier issued a call to battle in a statement headlined "The Final Hours". They said they were willing to shed blood against "terrorists and fools".

Armored vehicles took up position outside the state broadcasting headquarters on the Nile River bank, where soldiers patrolled the corridors and non-essential staff were sent home.

In another show of force, several hundred soldiers with armored vehicles staged a parade near the presidential palace, and security sources said Morsi and the entire senior leadership of his Muslim Brotherhood were banned from leaving the country.

Security sources told Reuters the authorities had sent a list of at least 40 leading members of the Brotherhood to airport police.

In a last-ditch statement a few minutes before the deadline, Morsi's office said a coalition government could be part of a solution to overcome the political crisis. But opposition parties refused to negotiate with him and met instead with the commander of the armed forces.

The Brotherhood's Egypt25 television station had broadcast live coverage of a rally of tens of thousands of Morsi supporters, even as the army moved tanks into position to prevent them from marching on the presidential palace or the Republican Guard barracks.

US oil prices rose to a 14-month high above $100 a barrel partly on fears that unrest in Egypt could destabilize the Middle East and lead to supply disruption.

The massive anti-Morsi protests showed that the Brotherhood had not only alienated liberals and secularists by seeking to entrench Islamic rule, notably in a new constitution, but had also angered millions of Egyptians with economic mismanagement.

Tourism and investment have dried up, inflation is rampant and fuel supplies are running short, with power cuts lengthening in the summer heat and motorists spending hours fuelling cars.

Earlier, Morsi's spokesman said it was better that he die in defense of democracy than be blamed by history.

"It is better for a president, who would otherwise be returning Egypt to the days of dictatorship, from which God and the will of the people has saved us, to die standing like a tree," spokesman Ayman Ali said, "Rather than be condemned by history and future generations for throwing away the hopes of Egyptians for establishing a democratic life."

Liberal opponents said a rambling late-night television address by Morsi showed he had "lost his mind".

The official spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood said supporters were willing to become martyrs to defend Morsi.

"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.

The country's two main religious leaders, the head of the Al-Azhar Islamic institute and the Coptic Pope, both expressed their support for the army's roadmap in speeches after Sisi, as did the main liberal opposition leader, Nobel peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei. 

REPORTS OF CRACKDOWN OF MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD

Egyptian security forces arrested the head of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and another of the movement's top leaders on Wednesday, an FJP official and security sources said.

Saad El-Katatni, the head of the FJP and the former speaker of parliament, was arrested along with Rashad al-Bayoumi, one of the Brotherhood's deputy leaders, the sources said.

Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper reported that arrest warrants had been issued for 300 Brotherhood members, and the security forces were preparing to clear a pro-Mursi rally near Cairo University.

The state news agency MENA reported that the police were continuing its efforts to arrest "a number of members of the Muslim Brotherhood who are accused of inciting violence and disturbing general security and peace".


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