Sisi re­places key Egypt se­cu­rity min­is­ters

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - REGION -

CAIRO: Egypt’s pres­i­dent swore in a new Cab­i­net Thurs­day af­ter re­plac­ing his de­fense and in­te­rior min­is­ters, a high-level se­cu­rity shake-up that comes as the coun­try is strug­gling to com­bat a Daesh (ISIS) af­fil­i­ate in the Si­nai Penin­sula.

Ab­del-Fat­tah al-Sisi tapped Lt. Gen. Mo­hamed Ahmed Zaki, head of the pres­i­den­tial guard, to be the new de­fense min­is­ter, re­plac­ing Gen. Sedki Sobhi, who had served in the post since Sisi was first elected in 2014.

Mah­moud Taw­fik, the head of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity de­part­ment, which fo­cuses on ter­ror­ism and threats to na­tional se­cu­rity, was cho­sen to suc­ceed Magdy Ab­del Ghaf­far at the In­te­rior Min­istry, which su­per­vises the po­lice. Ab­del Ghaf­far, a veteran se­cu­rity official, had been ap­pointed in 2015.

Both of the new min­is­ters are seen as close to Sisi, who also hails from Egypt’s mil­i­tary. Sisi served as de­fense min­is­ter un­der Mo­ham­mad Morsi be­fore lead­ing the mil­i­tary over­throw of the elected Is­lamist leader in 2013, amid mass protests against his di­vi­sive year in power.

Nearly all of Egypt’s mod­ern pres­i­dents have come from the mil­i­tary, which wields con­sid­er­able eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal power.

Last Oc­to­ber, Sisi re­placed his armed forces chief of staff and the In­te­rior Min­istry dis­missed the head of na­tional se­cu­rity, a hand­ful of gen­er­als, and a dozen se­nior lead­ers af­ter a deadly am­bush by mil­i­tants out­side Cairo that killed 16 po­lice.

The in­ner-work­ings of Egypt’s pow­er­ful mil­i­tary and se­cu­rity ser­vices are opaque, and it was not im­me­di­ately clear what prompted the lat­est shake-up. Egypt launched a ma­jor mil­i­tary offensive in Fe­bru­ary aimed at end­ing the in­sur­gency in the Si­nai and com­bat­ting mil­i­tants in the Western Desert, near the Libyan border.

Mil­i­tants have launched a wave of at­tacks across Egypt in re­cent years, mainly tar­get­ing se­cu­rity forces and the Coptic Chris­tian mi­nor­ity.

Sisi has mean­while presided over an un­prece­dented crack­down on dis­sent, jail­ing thou­sands of peo­ple and rolling back the free­doms won in the 2011 up­ris­ing that top­pled long­time au­to­crat Hosni Mubarak.

He has said such mea­sures are nec­es­sary to re­store sta­bil­ity af­ter years of un­rest and re­vive the econ­omy. Sisi was re-elected in March in a vote in which he faced no se­ri­ous com­pe­ti­tion, af­ter sev­eral po­ten­tially strong can­di­dates were ar­rested or pres­sured into drop­ping out.

His strong­est po­ten­tial chal­lenger was Maj. Gen. Sami Anan, a for­mer mil­i­tary chief of staff, who was ar­rested by the mil­i­tary af­ter an­nounc­ing his in­ten­tion to run.

The mil­i­tary says he is charged with run­ning for of­fice with­out per­mis­sion. Ahmed Shafik, a for­mer air force com­man­der and the last prime min­is­ter un­der Mubarak, was also pres­sured into drop­ping out.

Sisi’s pre­vi­ous Cab­i­net had re­signed in keep­ing with the tra­di­tion of re­plac­ing the govern­ment at the start of a new pres­i­den­tial term. But in pre­vi­ous tran­si­tions, se­nior min­is­ters, in­clud­ing those of de­fense and in­te­rior, have re­mained at their posts.

The new 33-mem­ber Cab­i­net is led by Prime Min­is­ter Mustafa Mad­bouly, who also serves as hous­ing min­is­ter. It in­cludes eight women and 12 new mem­bers. You­nis al-Masry, the com­man­der of the air force, will be the civil avi­a­tion min­is­ter in the new govern­ment.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Amr al-Garhy, who has over­seen a re­cent raft of aus­ter­ity mea­sures aimed at re­viv­ing the econ­omy, was re­placed by his deputy, Mo­ham­mad Maait. –

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