The Egyptian military on Wednesday ousted President Mohamed Morsi and suspended the constitution. The move follows massive demonstrations to force Morsi to step down and growing violence between his critics and supporters.
The Washington Post reported that armed forces commander Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi said “the chief of Egypt’s constitutional court ‘will assume the presidency’ on an interim basis until a new presidential election is held.”
Before the coup, U.S. spokesmen voiced caution. “This is a sensitive situation. We are very concerned about the events in the area,” State Department officials said, according to Arutz Sheva in Israel.
The U.S. embassy in Cairo ordered an evacuation of all non-essential personnel, the Post reported.
The move came several hours after the expiration of a 48-hour ultimatum by the military ordering Morsi to respond to the demands of thousands of protesters who have taken to the streets in recent weeks,
In an announcement on state television, the military said it was not taking power for itself, but only ensuring that “confidence and stability are secured for the people,” The New York Times reported.
Faced with the military’s ultimatum, Morsi held firm in a defiant speech Tuesday night. But as the deadline passed, the military moved decisively to secure key government sites around Cairo.
With news of Morsi’s removal from power, fireworks exploded over Tahrir Square, CNN reported.
Tensions in Egypt have been mounting for weeks. Faced with a sputtering economy and shortages of basic necessities, Egyptians began to turn on Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood official elected to the presidency last summer.
By late June, tens of thousands were filling Tahrir Square in central Cairo in an echo of the protests that swept longtime leader Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011, paving the way for the country’s first democratic election.
In the months after his election, Morsi moved decisively to consolidate power. In November he granted himself unfettered power and canceled judicial oversight of his actions.
JTA contributed to this article.