Egyptian Military Says It Has Overthrown President Morsi

Egyptian troops, backed by armor, deployed near protest sites and key facilities across Cairo as the military tightened control after the expiration of an ultimatum to the president to compromise with protesters seeking his ouster. We explore how President Mohamed Morsi went from being Egypt's first democratically elected president to a pariah.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

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SIEGEL: In Egypt, the military, backed by millions of protestors, has ousted President Mohammed Morsi. Celebratory fireworks and laser lights are lighting up the crowd in Tahrir Square. Elsewhere in Cairo, crowds are gathered to demonstrate on behalf of Morsi and, they say, mourn the death of democracy.

CORNISH: Morsi had refused to step down and the deadline set by the country's military's forces passed earlier today. Now, Egyptian troops have set up around Cairo. The armed forces chief announced in a televised address that the country's top judge will hold presidential powers until earlier presidential elections are held. We'll hear shortly from a member of the president's party, the Muslim Brotherhood. First, an update on what's happening. NPR's Leila Fadel joins us from Cairo. And, Leila, begin by telling us what the defense minister had to say.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Basically, the defense minister, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, said that the president is out, the chief justice will take power, early presidential elections will be held and a controversial constitution that was passed will be suspended.

CORNISH: And how has the former President Morsi reacted to the coup?

FADEL: Well, on his official Twitter account he has completely rejected this, saying that he remains president and the head of the supreme council of the armed forces. He called on honorable Egyptians to reject it as well on his Twitter account. And his supporters in the streets are calling this a sort of invalid coup d'etat and the death of democracy.

CORNISH: Now, you're in Cairo. Tell us a little more about what's happening on the streets now.

FADEL: Well, really, it's a mix of absolute celebration on the part of people who have protesting Morsi's rule, saying their life has only worsened under his rule, that they were monopolizing the government and only doing what was best for the brotherhood. And also, severe mourning amongst supporters of this president, amongst supporters who voted for him in what they thought was a free and fair election and now he's out of power.

CORNISH: Now, remind us how things reached this point. Mohammed Morsi has been in office for a year. On Monday, there were millions of protestors on the streets demanding his ouster and, of course, the military is now in charge again.

FADEL: Well, basically, it began as a drive for petition, saying we want to give Morsi a no-confidence vote from the street and many people dismissed it as something irrelevant. But on June 30th, millions of people came out to the streets, and almost immediately the military said we side with the people of Egypt and Morsi must solve this or we will put in a roadmap. And today, they did. According to aides to this president, he refused to step beside. He said the only way he would get out of power is if he was completely forced. And to this moment, he continues to refuse to step aside.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Leila Fadel in Cairo. Leila, thank you.

FADEL: Thank you.

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