Protests grow in Egypt against President Morsy

CAIRO (CNN) -- Appearing to throw its enormous weight behind protesters demanding the ouster of President Mohamed Morsy, the Egyptian military told the country's leaders Monday that they have 48 hours to "meet the demands of the people" or it will step in to restore order after days of chaos.

In a statement carried nationwide on radio and television, the military called the ultimatum "a final chance to shoulder the burden of a historic moment in our country."

Protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square, listening in on radios and cell phones, cheered as the statement was read. The clearly energized crowd, growing larger by the hour, cheered military helicopters passing overhead, some of them trailing Egyptian flags.

The military said it wants no direct role in national politics.

Rather, the military appeared to be pressuring Morsy to restructure his government by reducing the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in his cabinet and to call early presidential and parliamentary elections, a source close to highly placed members of Egypt's leadership told CNN.

Shortly after the announcement, Morsy met with Prime Minister Hisham Qandil and Egypt's minister of defense and head of the country's military, Gen. Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, according to the President's Facebook page. It was not immediately known what they discussed.

The military's announcement comes the same day the protest movement announced on Facebook that if Morsy doesn't leave office by Tuesday, the Tamarod (the "rebel" campaign") group will begin a civil disobedience movement, call for nationwide protests and march on the presidential palace, where Morsy's administration is running affairs.

Demonstrators say they have collected 17 million signatures -- roughly 4 million more than what won Morsy the presidency -- calling for Morsy to go.

The opposition is made up of various groups and loose coalitions, and not all anti-Morsy protesters agree with the road map the Tamarod campaign is advocating.

Some are loyal to the ousted Mubarak government, while others want the army to intervene.

On Monday, protesters stormed the main headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the party that Morsy led before his election. Armed with Molotov cocktails, the mob set the office on fire, shouting, "The people have toppled the regime."

At least 16 people were killed and more than 780 were wounded Sunday and Monday during the unrest in Egypt, the nation's health minister said, according to the official Egypt News agency.

On Friday, Andrew Pochter, a 21-year-old American in Alexandria to teach children English, was stabbed to death while watching the demonstrations, his family said.

Dr. Mohammed Mustafa Hamid told the news agency that eight people alone were killed in clashes at the Muslim Brotherhood's national headquarters in Cairo. All but 182 of the wounded have left the hospital after receiving treatment for their injuries.

State-funded Egyptian daily Al-Ahram also reported 46 sexual assaults during anti-Morsy protests in Egypt since Sunday, citing volunteer group Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment.

Military opposes 'wasting more time'

Those calling for Morsy's ouster say he has hijacked the gains made in the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak and has pushed aside moderate voices.

They say Morsy's policies are to blame for a breakdown in law and order, for an economy that's gone south, and for a gas shortage that has Egyptians waiting at the pumps for hours.

Monday's military statement seemed to adopt the protesters perspective, calling the crisis a grave threat to national security while praising demonstrators as determined and admirable.

"Wasting more time will only lead to more division and fighting which we have and continue to warn against," the military said in its statement.

The source who discussed the issue with CNN said the military is asking Morsy's government to reduce the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and focus on a governing style credible to the majority.

The Muslim Brotherhood was shunted aside under the rule of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who was deposed in the uprising that eventually resulted in Morsy's election. It is now the most powerful political force in Egypt.

Last week, El-Sisi said the army would, if necessary, "prevent Egypt from slipping into a dark tunnel of civil unrest and killing, sectarianism and the collapse of state institutions."

'Not fair,' Morsy supporter says

Those supporting the president say he is the people's choice and refer to the 13 million votes he earned in elections held exactly a year ago Sunday. They say he inherited a broken system and should be given time to fix it.

"We're not leaving, and the president is staying," one supporter told CNN. "We believe in democracy. If people don't like him, they can vote him out in three years."

AbdulMawgoud Dardery, a former member of parliament and a Muslim Brotherhood representative, said Monday that the party might be supportive of early parliamentary elections. But he said the nation elected Morsy to a four-year term, and should stand by that. To do otherwise would disrupt the country's nascent democracy, he said.

"It is not fair. It is not fair to a democracy," he said.

Besides, Dardery said, he believes the military's statement was directed toward the nation's political parties, who have been unable to come to agreement on a road map for changes in Egypt's political system.

Speaking in Africa, U.S. President Barack Obama noted the protests and their demands.

"Our commitment to Egypt has never been around any particular individual or party. Our commitment has been to a process," he said.