Egypt tense as possibility of army coup looms large over Prez Morsi
Egypt was on edge on Wednesday after President Mohamed Morsi refused to quit hours before an army ultimatum expires, following deadly violence during rival mass protests in Egypt’s worst crisis since its 2011 revolution.
As the clock ticked down on the army’s deadline for Morsi to meet the ‘people’s demands’ by 4.30pm (1430 GMT), top military chiefs gathered for emergency talks, a source told AFP.
In a televised early morning address, Morsi said he had been freely elected to lead the troubled nation a little more than a year ago and intended to stick to his task.
The only alternative to respecting the constitutional legitimacy of the office was further bloodshed, the Islamist leader warned.
Senior armed forces commanders meeting on Wednesday swore to defend Egypt with their lives, a source close to the military told AFP. ‘We swear to God that we will sacrifice our blood for Egypt and its people against all terrorists, extremists and the ignorant,’ they declared in an oath led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the source said.
The army is expected to issue a statement after its deadline.
As the two camps upped the stakes, the health ministry reported unidentified gunmen had killed 16 people and wounded about 200 more when they opened fire on a rally by his supporters in Cairo overnight.
A message posted on Morsi’s official Twitter account called on the army to back off.
‘President Morsi insists on (his) constitutional legitimacy and rejects any attempt to overstep it,’ the message said. ‘(He) calls on the armed forces to withdraw their warning and rejects any dictates, domestic or foreign.’
But Egypt’s press predicted Wednesday would be the day of Morsi’s departure.
‘Today: Ouster or Resignation,’ splashed the state-owned mass circulation Al-Ahram. ‘The End,’ declared the independent Al-Watan.
Cairo’s streets were unusually quiet Wednesday, with many choosing to stay home over fears of more violence.
‘The Islamists declared war on the rest of the population yesterday. I’m very scared,’ said resident Soha Abdelrahman.
In Giza neighbourhood, a group of men stopped a minibus, threatening to ‘kill anyone with a beard’ in reference to Islamists, a witness said. Developments in Egypt also hit global oil prices, with New York crude hitting a 14-month peak on concerns that the crisis could affect the rest of the Middle East and disrupt global supplies, analysts said.
In Asian trading hours, New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) light sweet crude for August, surged to $102.18 per barrel — which was last seen on 4 May, 2012.
The contract later trimmed gains to stand at $101.07.