Cairo: Egypt’s army was on Thursday holding the country’s first democratically elected president Mohammad Mursi in detention, hours after abruptly forcing him out of office following days of deadly protests against his turbulent rule.
A senior military officer told AFP the army was “preventively” holding Mursi, whose government unravelled after the army gave him a 48-hour ultimatum in the wake of massive demonstrations against him on June 30, exactly a year into his rule.
Mursi’s defence minister, armed forces chief General Abdul Fatah Al Sisi, announced Mursi’s overthrow on state television on Wednesday, even as police began rounding up key Mursi aides and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Warrants have been issued for the arrest of a total of 300 Brotherhood officials, state media reported.
Sa’ad Al Katatni, head of the ousted president’s Freedom and Justice Party, and the Brotherhood’s deputy supreme guide Rashad Bayoumi were arrested and transferred to prison, the official Mena news agency reported.
Thousands of protesters camped out on the streets of Cairo for days celebrated wildly through the night at the news of Mursi’s downfall, cheering, whistling, letting off firecrackers and honking car horns.
The military officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that Mursi “is being held preventively for final preparations”.
He suggested the Islamist might face formal charges over accusations made by his opponents.
Mursi had been summoned for questioning by a court over his escape, along with other inmates, from prison during the revolt that overthrew Mubarak in 2011.
The military official suggested he may now be charged by prosecutors in the case.
Mursi was detained along with senior aides after issuing a defiant call for supporters to protect his elected “legitimacy”, in a recorded speech hours after the military announced his ouster.
“We had to confront it at some point, this threatening rhetoric,” the military officer said.
“He succeeded in creating enmity between Egyptians,” he added.
In his speech, Al Sisi laid out details of the roadmap for a political transition.
The Islamist-drafted constitution would be frozen and presidential elections held early, he said, without specifying when.
The armed forces, which had deployed troops and armour across the country, would “remain far away from politics,” he stressed.
Egypt’s chief justice Adly Al Mansour will serve as interim president until new elections are held, according to the army’s plan.
At least seven of Mursi’s supporters were killed in clashes with security forces in Alexandria and the eastern city of Marsa Matrouh during the night, security officials said.
The official Mena news agency reported three people also killed in the southern province of Minya when pro-Mursi supporters attacked the Islamist’s opponents.
Already in the week leading up to Mursi’s downfall, at least 50 people died in clashes between the Islamist’s supporters and opponents.