CAIRO — The first democratic presidential administration of Egypt in the modern era is in extreme peril as hundreds of thousands of people flood Tahrir square to demand the ouster of President Muhammad Morsy.
About two dozen pro and ant-Morsy demonstrators have been killed during violent clashes overnight, the local Egyptian media reports. The military is following through on its pledges to remove Morsi from power, put in an interim president and rewrite the constitution.
From NBC News:
A military deadline for the president of Egypt to give up power came and went Wednesday with no sign of a resolution to the standoff and both sides vowing that they were prepared to fight to the death.
As the military appeared to take control of state television, thousands of people massed in Tahrir Square in Cairo, waving flags, singing patriotic songs and demanding the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi.
They danced and cheered after a local television report that Morsi was under house arrest, but two presidential advisers told NBC News that the report was not true.
The military issued a call to arms in a Facebook post titled “The Final Hours.” It quoted the military leader, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, as saying that it would be an honor to die rather than subject the Egyptian people to threats or terror.
“We swear to God to sacrifice with our blood for Egypt and its people against any terrorist, extremist or ignoramus,” the statement said. “Long live Egypt and its proud people.”
In a televised speech overnight, Morsi clung to control and said: “I am prepared to sacrifice my blood for the sake of the security and stability of this homeland.”
The government said at least 16 people had been killed and about 200 injured in clashes with security forces at Cairo University.
The military was believed to have given Morsi until 5 p.m. local time, or 11 a.m. ET, to meet the demands of the protesters. The precise time was not clear. The ultimatum, issued Monday, has been denounced by supporters of Morsi as a military coup.
Hours ahead of the deadline, civilian political leaders were summoned to meet with the top generals. Those civilian leaders included Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the U.N. nuclear weapons agency and a critic of Morsi.
The Associated Press reported that a leading Muslim cleric and the head of Egypt’s Coptic Christians were also at the meeting.
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 military controlled Egypt from February 2011, when protesters forced the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, until June 2012, when Morsi won a competitive election and was sworn in.
While Morsi is still supported by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, furious protesters are dissatisfied with his performance, frustrated by a struggling economy and what they see as a presidential power grab. The Obama administration and the United Nations have encouraged Morsi to listen to his people.