Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has sacked the country's intelligence chief and other senior security officials in the wake of a deadly attack by militants on a security checkpoint near the border with Israel, it was announced late on Wednesday.
At least 16 Egyptian border guards were killed and seven injured in Sunday's attack, which has since been blamed on Islamic militants active in the region. It was followed by more militant attacks on Wednesday.
In retaliation to the checkpoint attack in the town of al-Arish, Egyptian military on Wednesday launched an air offensive against suspected Islamic milants in Sinai. The military claimed later that more than 20 people suspected to have been involved in Sunday's checkpoint attack were killed in the air strike.
In wake of these developments, the state TV announced late on Wednesday that President Morsi had sacked Gen. Mohamed Murad Mowafi as the country's intelligence chief and appointed Gen. Mohamed Raafat Abdel-Wahed to the post on a temporary basis.
Morsi also asked Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi to replace the commander of the military police, fired the commander of the presidential guards and named new chiefs for security in Cairo and the paramilitary force often deployed to tackle riots.
Earlier, Egyptian media quoted sacked intelligence chief Gen. Mowafi as saying that his agency had received intelligence reports about the imminent attacks and it passed the details to relevant authorities, insisting that intelligence service's job was only to collect information.
Lawlessness in the rugged Sinai desert region bordering Israel spread as a result of the political instability caused by last year's anti-government unrest that eventually ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Also, Egypt has only a limited military presence in Sinai in accordance with a 1979 peace treaty under which Israel returned Sinai to Cairo's control.
Following the upsurge against his decades-old rule, Mubarak stepped down in February last year after handing over power to the country's military headed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Mubarak has since been convicted of complicity in the deaths of anti-government protesters and sentenced to life in prison.
Notably, the Army chiefs had formally handed over power to the new President only on June 30 after Morsi's victory in Egypt's first-ever free presidential elections. Nevertheless, Egypt's powerful military has not yet handed over absolute power to Morsi, who is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The SCAF dissolved the Parliament on June 17 complying with a Supreme Court ruling that declared part of the parliamentary election unconstitutional as political party members contested from seats reserved for independents.
Further, the SCAF issued a constitutional declaration in June, arming itself with sweeping legislative powers as well as control over the budget until a new Parliament is elected. The Council also retained the power to decide who should draft the new Constitution, and curtailed powers of the incoming President.
by RTT Staff Writer
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