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Egypt ousts Mursi, creating dilemma for West

Egyptians elected Mohamed Mursi as president in a vote held just a year ago. On Wednesday, the country's military overthrew his government. Many celebrated his departure, while others worried about the transition away from a democratically-elected government.

By Alastair MacdonaldReuters, Alexander DziadoszReuters / July 4, 2013

Presidential candidate Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood casts his vote in this file photo from last year. Egypt's deposed President Mursi, toppled by the military on Wednesday, is being held by the authorities.

REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/Files



Egypt's army overthrew elected President Mohamed Mursi, delighting millions who hated Islamist rule but incensing his supporters, who saw a military coup that poses dilemmas for Western leaders who promote democracy.

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Mursi, elected a year ago in a vote hailed as a new dawn for the Arab world's biggest nation after the uprising of 2011, was held at a military facility in Cairo, a security source said.

Earlier, in a shaky, handheld video, and in a Facebook post he denounced "a full military coup" that would plunge Egypt into "chaos." But he urged his supporters not to fight back.

The head of the armed forces pledged new elections as part of a road map ironed out during a meeting with liberal opposition groups before Mursi's removal was announced. Liberals welcomed a relaunch of the transition to democracy, which they felt had been hijacked by Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood.

Military authorities immediately shut down television channels seen as sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood and began arresting other senior leaders.

Vast crowds partied in Cairo's Tahrir Square, recalling the Arab Spring revolution two years ago when the army toppled the autocrat Hosni Mubarak. But in clashes after dark across the country, at least 14 people were killed and over 340 wounded.

The fall of the first elected leader to emerge from the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011 raised questions about the future of political Islam, which had seemed triumphant. Deeply divided, Egypt's 84 million people find themselves again a focus of concern in a region traumatised by the civil war in Syria.

Straddling the Suez Canal and a key piece in the security of Israel, many powers have an interest in Egypt's stability.

The army put combat troops and tanks on streets around a gathering of thousands of Mursi's supporters in Cairo. It said it would keep order across the country.

Within a couple of hours of the broadcast by military chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, suspending the constitution and appointing the constitutional court's chief justice as interim head of state, three TV channels went off air. The Egyptian arm of Qatar's Al Jazeera was raided but kept transmitting.

The head of the political wing of Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood - the speaker of a disbanded parliament - was arrested at his home. State newspaper Al-Ahram said warrants were issued for 300 Brotherhood members accused of inciting unrest.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged a swift return to civilian rule, restraint and respect for civil rights.


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