Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi’s national security adviser said a military coup was under way on Wednesday after an army deadline for the Islamist leader to yield to street protests passed without any agreement.
In a show of force, several hundred soldiers with armoured vehicles staged a parade on a main road near the presidential palace, and security sources said Mursi and the entire senior leadership of his Muslim Brotherhood were banned from leaving the country.
“For the sake of Egypt and for historical accuracy, let’s call what is happening by its real name: military coup,” national security adviser Essam El-Haddad said in a statement, warning of “considerable bloodshed” .
A presidential aide said Mursi was working at a Republican Guard barracks in a Cairo suburb, near to his office, and had chosen to stay there. Other close advisers were allowed to leave the compound after the 5 p.m. (1500 GMT) deadline expired.
The aide, Yasser Haddara, a communications adviser, said it was unclear whether Mursi was free to return to the palace where he spent the previous night. His message to supporters was to resist the “military coup” peacefully and not use violence against troops, police or other Egyptians.
Military chiefs, vowing to restore order in a country racked by protests over Mursi’s Islamist policies, earlier issued a call to battle in a statement headlined “The Final Hours”. They said they were willing to shed blood against “terrorists and fools” after Mursi refused to give up his elected office.
Armoured vehicles took up position outside the state broadcasting headquarters on the Nile River bank, where soldiers patrolled the corridors and non-essential staff were sent home.
There was no immediate sign of military action to remove the president. However, security sources told Reuters that the authorities had imposed an international travel ban on Mursi and at least 40 leading members of the Brotherhood in a list sent to airport police.
In a last-ditch statement a few minutes before the deadline, Mursi’s office said a coalition government could be part of a solution to overcome the political crisis. But opposition parties refused to negotiate with him and met instead with the commander of the armed forces.