July 3, 2013 – CAIRO — An adviser to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi said Wednesday that a military coup was underway, that tanks were on the move outside Cairo and that communication with the president had been cut off. As a military deadline came and went for Morsi to step aside, the army took control of state television, and boisterous crowds opposed to the regime cheered and danced in Tahrir Square. Representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, which supports Morsi, also said that some of its leaders had been rounded up and arrested. Earlier in the day, both the president and the military had sworn a fight to the death. The military leader, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, said it would be an honor to die rather than subject the Egyptian people to threats or terror. In something of a call to arms, the military posted on Facebook: “We swear to God to sacrifice with our blood for Egypt and its people against any terrorist, extremist or ignoramus. Long live Egypt and its proud people.” The government said at least 16 people had been killed and about 200 injured in clashes with security forces at Cairo University. Egypt elected Morsi one year ago after throwing out Hosni Mubarak, the autocrat who led the country for three decades. But Egyptians have been frustrated by a weak economy and what they see as a power grab by the Morsi government. Violent clashes continue in Cairo where demonstrators are protesting against Mohammed Morsi’s presidency. Morsi is declaring he’d rather die than forfeit his post as the Egyptian army threatens to remove him by force. NBC’s Richard Engel reports.
The military was believed to have given Morsi until 5 p.m. local time, or 11 a.m. ET, to meet the demands of the protesters. The precise time was not clear. The ultimatum, issued Monday, has been denounced by supporters of Morsi as a military coup. Hours ahead of the deadline, civilian political leaders were summoned to meet with the top generals. Those civilian leaders included Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the U.N. nuclear weapons agency and a critic of Morsi. The Associated Press reported that a leading Muslim cleric and the head of Egypt’s Coptic Christians were also at the meeting. Sources told NBC News that the army had control of state television. Non-essential staff were told to go home early, and Reuters reported that the building was being guarded by armored vehicles. The Associated Press reported that military officers were monitoring broadcasts. There were other signs that support for Morsi was slipping, even among sympathizers. A senior member of a hardline Islamist party allied with the president told Reuters that the party was trying to broker a peaceful transfer of power to avoid bloodshed. “We find ourselves faced with the necessity of convincing the president to accept a referendum on early presidential elections,” Tarek al-Zumar of Gamaa Islamiya said in a telephone interview. “This is what we hope will be reached in the next few hours.” The military controlled Egypt from February 2011, when protesters forced the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, until June 2012, when Morsi won a competitive election and was sworn in. –NBC