Egypt on the edge: Troops seen preparing for unarmed combat after President Morsi rebuffs army 48-hour coup deadline

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Egypt set for a military coup if Muslim Brotherhood President clings to power

Cairo

Egyptian troops have been seen gearing up for unarmed combat as the clocked continued to tick on the 48-hour ultimatum handed to President Mohamed Morsi.

Images from Al Jazeera's Egypt news channel satellite showed Egyptian troops chanting, marching and training for unarmed combat in the streets of the Red Sea city of Suez at the mouth of the Suez Canal on Tuesday.

Security sources in Suez said that forces from the locally based Third Field Army strengthened their presence in the city overnight after the clashes. Armed vehicles were also sent on patrol, the sources told Reuters.

Military sources said on Tuesday that troops were preparing to deploy on the streets of Cairo and other cities if necessary to prevent clashes between rival political factions.

The UN have now stepped in to urge Egyptian president Morsi to engage in serious national dialogue" with the people, as the military warned of a possible coup if he does not respond within 48-hours.

Rupert Colville, spokesman of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, also said the role of the military, which gave Mursi a 48-hour ultimatum on Monday to resolve the impasse after mass anti-government protests, was crucial.

“We call on the president of Egypt to listen to the demands and wishes of the Egyptian people expressed during these huge protests over the past few days, and to address key issues raised by the opposition and by civil society in recent months,” he told a news briefing in Geneva.

In a statement issued at 2am on Tuesday morning by President Morsi's office, Egypt's leader rebuffed the army's 48-hour deadline to meet the demands of the people, despite warnings that they would mount a military coup.

Nine hours after General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi delighted Morsi's opponents by effectively ordering the president to heed the demands of demonstrators, the president's office said that he had not been consulted and would pursue his own plans for national reconciliation.

“The president of the republic was not consulted about the statement issued by the armed forces,” it said. “The presidency sees that some of the statements in it carry meanings that could cause confusion in the complex national environment.”

The statement continued: “The presidency confirms that it is going forward on its previously plotted path to promote comprehensive national reconciliation ... regardless of any statements that deepen divisions between citizens.”

Describing civilian rule as a great gain from the revolution of 2011, Egypt's first freely elected leader, in office for just a year, said he would not let the clock be turned back.

Since this statement was released two spokesmen for the president have quit, according to a foreign ministry official, on top of six cabinet members who resigned yesterday.

But in highlighting that his plans for reconciliation remain the same as those he had spelt out before, he was speaking of offers that have already been rejected by the opposition, leaving it improbable that such compromises would bear fruit before Sisi's deadline.

Morsi also spoke to US President Barack Obama by phone on Monday, the presidency said in a separate statement. Morsi stressed that Egypt was moving forward with a peaceful democratic transition based on the law and constitution, it said.

On Monday the Egyptian military had issued a stark warning that it would be prepared to mount a coup against the Muslim Brotherhood, setting a 48-hour deadline for the government and its opponents to solve the growing political crisis or face military intervention.

Speaking in a televised address, as thousands of anti-government protesters turned out across the country for a second day, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi warned that the military would offer its own “road map for the future” unless a consensus was reached.

On Monday, Egypt’s commander-in-chief praised anti-government demonstrations on Sunday, in which millions of Egyptians took part, as an “unprecedented” and “glorious” expression of the popular will. “If the demands of the people are not realised within the defined period,” he had said, “it will be incumbent upon [the armed forces] ... to announce a road map for the future.”

Soon afterwards, five military helicopters flew in formation over Tahrir Square – the cradle of the country’s 2011 Arab Spring revolt – with Egyptian flags tasselled to the fuselage. The jingoistic display was met with roars from the crowd below.

Mahmoud Badr, founder of the coalition which has spearheaded the renewed anti-government revolt, welcomed the army’s intervention as a move towards early elections.

“The statement of the armed forces has a single idea – supporting the will of the Egyptian people at this moment, which means early presidential elections.”

Many who heeded the call to revolt are happy to contemplate the military toppling Egypt’s elected President.

“After the past two and a half years, there is no other option than having the military as a sponsor,” said Mamdouh Badr, an Egyptian activist. “Egypt now has serious problems. We need the military as a solid structure to be part of the political scene for the next four or five years.”

However, many other Egyptians, recalling the street protests which demanded an end to the period of martial rule following former President Hosni Mubarak’s ousting in 2011, reacted with disbelief and apprehension to the growing clamour for a military coup.

“The military are Mubarak’s men through and through,” said Farah Saafan, a Cairo-based journalist. “I don’t see why we should trust them. They committed horrible atrocities when they held power and should be held accountable for it.”

Monday's gambit by Egypt’s generals turned the screw ever more tightly on Mr Morsi. He is now facing increasing pressure on several fronts.

The state news agency announced yesterday that five cabinet ministers were tendering their resignations in solidarity with the anti-government protests. Meanwhile the coalition behind this week’s massive demonstrations issued its own ultimatum to Mr Morsi, telling the President he must stand down on Tuesday.

The so-called Rebellion campaign gave Egypt’s leader until 5pm to resign and trigger fresh presidential elections. If he failed to do so, it warned, organisers would initiate a wave of “complete civil disobedience”.

The developments came following a night of deadly violence outside the Muslim Brotherhood’s national headquarters in Cairo. Sixteen people are believed to have died in the protests since Sunday.

Although Sunday’s marches in the capital were largely peaceful, gun battles erupted soon after nightfall in Moqattam, the limestone cliff plateau in eastern Cairo which houses the Brotherhood’s central office. Brotherhood members who had been under attack inside the premises were eventually forced out by their assailants, fleeing early yesterday morning. Dozens of looters then broke in to the smouldering and shattered building, making off with chairs, books, sinks and air conditioning units. By midday, the national headquarters of Egypt’s governing movement had been stripped of virtually everything inside – including photos of the embattled president.

Among some of the local onlookers, there was not much sympathy for the party.

“I don’t mind the looting,” said 56-year-old Faten Shenawy. “This country is broken. I don’t want the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Speaking to The Independent, an angry Brotherhood official warned that colleagues were now discussing how they would respond. “This cannot continue,” said Gehad el-Haddad. “If it was any other party except the Muslim Brotherhood they would probably retaliate”.

There were questions about the roles of the police and the army during the incident. Mr Haddad said both were called several times but failed to respond. There was also no sign of any security presence when the looting began, despite the presence of TV crews and reporters.

Police officers have grown increasingly hostile towards the Brotherhood since the election last year.

The Interior Ministry openly warned it would not protect the group’s headquarters, while some demonstrators have adopted the iconic revolutionary chant to pledge that “the police and people are on one hand” – much to the bemusement of activists who recall the bloody battles once fought against them.

The current wave of mass demonstrations have been largely peaceful, although campaigners reported more than 40 sexual assaults by gangs against women in Cairo.

Life and Style
LifeReddit asked a simple question with infinite answers this week
Life and Style
Pepper, the 3ft 11in shiny box of circuits who can tell jokes and respond to human emotions
techDavid McNeill tests the mettle of one of the new generation of androids being developed in Tokyo
Life and Style
beauty
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice