Middle East

Egypt army arrests key Muslim Brotherhood figures

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Media captionBen Brown in Cairo: "There are wild celebrations, a real carnival atmosphere"

Egypt's military has moved against the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, a day after deposing President Mohammed Morsi.

Mr Morsi is in detention, as well as senior figures in the Islamist group of which he is a member. Hundreds more are being sought.

The top judge of Egypt's constitutional court, Adly Mahmud Mansour, has been sworn in as interim leader.

He has pledged to hold elections based on "the genuine people's will".

At a news conference, Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad el-Haddad declared "our full refusal and revoking of the military coup" and demanded Mr Morsi's immediate release, along with the other detainees.

He declared the Brotherhood's "full denial of co-operation" with the new regime and said it would take part in all "peaceful, people-led protest".

Meanwhile, Egyptian Foreign Minister Kamel Amr - who resigned from Mr Morsi's government on Monday - said he had assured US Secretary of State John Kerry in a telephone call on Thursday that the overthrow of President Morsi had not been a military coup, but the "overwhelming will of the people".

The upheaval in Egypt comes after days of mass rallies against Mr Morsi and the Brotherhood, who are accused of pursuing an Islamist agenda and failing to tackle Egypt's economic problems.

Some 50 people have died since the latest unrest began on Sunday, with correspondents saying that there are continuing fears of confrontation between the pro- and anti-Morsi blocs.

A coalition of Islamist parties - the National Coalition in Support of Legitimacy - has called for mass demonstrations to denounce the army's actions following Friday prayers.

'Police state'

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Media captionMr Mansour praised the armed forces and the Egyptian people

The Egyptian army has gambled that it can contain the situation, but that's by no means certain, says the BBC's Jeremy Bowen in Cairo.

There have been reports that Morsi supporters in a town north of Cairo have been set upon and badly beaten - an illustration of the potential for danger.

Mr Haddad earlier told the BBC that Mr Morsi had been put under house arrest and the "entire presidential team" was in detention.

The army said that Mr Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected leader, had "failed to meet the demands of the people".

But in the news conference, Mr Haddad said the arrests had no legal basis and decried "the prospect of a police state in action now", citing as a particular example the arrest of the former Muslim Brotherhood chief Dr Mahdi Akef - "a non-political, non-office figure, 85 years old and yet arrested".

Mr Haddad's father, senior Morsi aide Essam el-Haddad, and Saad al-Katatni, head of the FJP, are among those being held.

On Thursday afternoon unnamed officials said Mohammed Badie, supreme leader of the Brotherhood, had been arrested in Mersa Matruh, a Mediterranean coastal city to the west of Cairo.

Arrest warrants have reportedly been issued for some 300 other members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Mr Badie's deputy, Khairat al-Shater.

Some of those held, including Mr Morsi, are being charged with "insulting the judiciary", and the public prosecutor's office told AFP news agency travel bans had been placed on 35 senior leaders.

Several TV stations sympathetic to the Brotherhood have been taken off the air, and a state-owned printing press is said to be refusing to print a newspaper run by the FJP.

Security forces raided al-Jazeera's Egypt channel and detained members of its crew - a move denounced by the Arabic broadcaster.

Rights group Amnesty International said the shutdowns were a "blow to freedom of expression".

Fighter jets trailing smoke drew love hearts in Cairo's smoggy skies on Thursday in apparent celebration of the military's role in ousting Mr Morsi's government.

But across the city, his despondent supporters staged sit-ins in protest at what many are calling a betrayal of the democratic process.

'Spirit of revolution'

Mr Mansour took an oath to become interim head of state, vowing to safeguard "the spirit of the revolution" which had removed Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011.

Fresh elections were "the only way" forward, he said, without indicating when they would be held.

He held out an apparent olive branch to the Muslim Brotherhood, saying they were "part of this people" and were "invited to participate in building the nation".

The army's roadmap for the post-Morsi era includes:

  • Suspension of the constitution
  • A civilian, transitional technocratic government
  • Supreme constitutional court to prepare for presidential and parliamentary elections
  • A "charter of honour" to be drawn up and followed by national media

Events in Egypt have divided international opinion, with the US, UK and UN among those expressing concern and calling for a swift return to civilian rule.

Others, such as Turkey and Tunisia, have been more forthright in their condemnation of the way Mr Morsi has been ousted.

Yet others, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates - as well as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - have welcomed the turn of events.

Mr Morsi became Egypt's first Islamist president on 30 June 2012, after winning an election considered free and fair following the 2011 revolution that toppled Mubarak.

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