EGYPT General unlikely to hit back at Mursi

Mursi uses deadly Sinai attack to axe military rivals

By Ramadan Al Sherbini Correspondent
August 13, 2012

Cairo: Egypt’s Islmaist President Mohammad Mursi has apparently taken advantage of a brazen attack in the lawless Sinai Peninsula to remove top army commanders who curtailed his powers, according to analysts and officials in his group the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The deadly attack on Egyptian soldiers at the [border town of] Rafah exposed military failings,” said Salah Al Hadi, a political expert.

Unknown gunmen in Bedouin attire killed earlier this month 16 soldiers near the Gaza Strip in the deadliest attack on the Egyptian army in decades.

“The implications of the attack are serious and embarrassing, as the slain soldiers were taken off guard and were unable to defend themselves,” he told Gulf News.

The Egyptian army has been pursuing since Tuesday a wide-scale campaign, the biggest in decades, to crush Islamist militants suspected of killing the soldiers.

In surprise moves on Sunday, Mursi ordered the retirement of Field Marshal Hussain Tantawi,a veteran defence minister who headed the powerful Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that ruled Egypt for more than a year after a popular revolt forced Hosni Mubarak out of power.

Tantawi was kept as a defence minister in Mursi’s first government formed earlier this month, a post he held for 21 years.

Mursi also sent into retirement the chief of the army staff, Sami Anan, the No 2 man in the army.

On the same day, Mursi cancelled an interim constitution enacted by the military in mid-June that gave the army sweeping powers at the expense of the president.

“Mursi’s decisions are sound and came to fulfil his pledge to the people that he would exercise his full powers as a president,” said Mahmoud Ghuzlan, the spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood.

“These decisions were expedited by the Sinai incidents, which proved to the president that the military council commanders’ preoccupation with politics weakened their ability to protect the country.”

Ghuzlan ruled out the possibility that Tantawi, who served as defence minister for 21 years, and Anan would stage a military coup.

Mursi decreed that the two retired generals be appointed as presidential advisers, and conferred on them prestigious medals, gestures apparently aimed to cushion their public embarrassment.

At a religious ceremony, Mursi said his decisions sought to promote national interest and “did not target persons or were meant to embarrass certain institutions”.

He took office on June 30 as Egypt’s first elected civilian president.

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