CAIRO (Reuters) – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi appointed a new armed forces chief of staff on Saturday, and the interior ministry dismissed several high-ranking officials in an apparent reorganisation of the country s security command.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attends a news conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, October 24, 2017 . REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
No reason was given for the reshuffle, but the interior ministry decision came a week after a deadly attack on a police operation in a western desert area of Giza Province, in which the ministry said 16 police were killed after coming under heavy fire.
Egyptian forces have been fighting several armed Islamist groups, mostly in the northern part of the Sinai peninsula, since Sisi helped lead the military overthrow of President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013.
Hundreds of members of the security forces have been killed in attacks by militants in recent years . A local Islamic State affiliate has been the main foe of the security forces in the north Sinai.
A statement from the presidency said Gen .
Mohamed Farid Hegazy would replace Gen . Mahmoud Hegazy, who has been made the president s adviser for strategic planning and crisis management.
In a separate statement, the interior ministry announced that it had replaced several high-ranking officials, including the head of homeland security, assistant to the minister for security in Giza province, the director of Giza s security and director of operations for central security.
It gave no further details on the shakeup . No militant group has yet claimed responsibility for last week s attack on the police in a remote desert area of Giza, about 130 km (80 miles) southwest of the capital Cairo.
Thirteen militants were killed in a raid on a farm hideout in the region on Friday . State news agency MENA quoted a security official as saying it was revenge for the blood of the men who were martyred last week in the oasis .
The vast western desert region has always been a security headache with arms flowing across the frontier with Libya, where militant groups have found shelter since the country fell into chaos after the 2011 end of Muammar Gaddafi s rule.
Sisi is a former military commander elected by a landslide in 2014 and presents himself as a bulwark against Islamist militancy . He is widely expected to run for re-election next year.
Reporting by Mostafa Hashem; Writing by Arwa Gaballa; Editing by Patrick Markey and Andrew Roche
CAIRO (Reuters) – At least sixteen police officers were killed in a shoot-out during a raid on a suspected militant hideout in Egypt s Western desert, two security sources said on Friday.
A number of suspected militants were also killed and security forces are continuing to comb the area, a statement by the Interior Ministry said.
Egypt is facing an Islamist insurgency concentrated in the Sinai peninsula from two main groups, including an Islamic State affiliate, that has killed hundreds of security forces since 2013.
Islamist militants have launched several major attacks, most recently targeting churches in Cairo and other cities with the loss of dozens of lives.
The security sources said authorities were following a lead to a hideout deep in the heart of the desert thought to house eight suspected members of Hasm, a group which has claimed several attacks around the capital targeting judges and policemen since last year.
The number of dead was expected to rise, the security sources said.
The suspected militants tried to flee after the exchange of fire, the sources said, and continued to fire from higher ground at a second security unit called in for backup . They also detonated explosive devices.
Two security sources said 8 security personnel were injured in the clashes, while another source said that four of the injured were police officers and four others suspected militants.
Egypt accuses Hasm of being the militant wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group it outlawed in 2013 . The Muslim Brotherhood denies this.
The Islamist insurgency in the Sinai peninsula has grown since the military overthrew President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in mid-2013 following mass protests against his rule.
The militant group staging the insurgency pledged allegiance to Islamic State in 2014 .
It is blamed for the killing of hundreds of soldiers and policemen and has started to target other areas, including Egypt s Christian Copts.
Reporting by Ahmed Mohamed Hassan, Additional reporting by Mostafa Hashem; Writing by Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Ralph Boulton
GAZA/RAMALLAH (Reuters) – Negotiators from rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Islamist group Hamas will discuss security in the Gaza Strip at unity talks in Cairo on Tuesday, including a proposal that would see Fatah security personnel deployed to Hamas-dominated territory.
The plan for 3,000 Fatah security officers to join a Gaza police force over the course of a year, part of a unity deal mediated by Egypt in 2011, would restore much of the influence of Fatah leader President Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza and further loosen Hamas grip.
The deal was never implemented.
The Western-backed mainstream Fatah party lost control of the enclave to Hamas, considered a terrorist group by the West and Israel, in fighting in 2007 .
The loss damaged Abbas credibility in the eyes of the West and Israel, after years of being their main Palestinian diplomatic counterpart.
But under Egypt s mediation, major steps have been made towards narrowing rifts since Hamas handed administrative powers in Gaza to a Fatah-backed government last month.
The move was a major reversal for Hamas and was partially prompted by the group s fears of potential financial and political isolation after its main donor Qatar suffered a major diplomatic crisis with key allies.
The sides will discuss the security issue, especially in Gaza, in the way that serves the home front, enforces the rule of law in a professional and national way and is not factional, said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.
The deal would see Hamas, which has the most powerful armed Palestinian faction with an estimated 25,000 well-equipped fighters who have fought three wars with Israel since 2008.
The issue of arms of resistance is not up for discussion, Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters .
Israel s enmity with Hamas means greater unity with Fatah is unlikely to help any future efforts for a peace deal with Israel.
But both sides hope that the deal s proposed deployment of security personnel from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority to Gaza s borders will encourage Egypt and Israel to ease their tight restrictions at border crossings, a badly needed step to help Gaza revive its economy and improve the living standards of its two million residents.
Officials said that apart from the implementation of the 2011 agreement and security, the Cairo talks would also cover issues such as setting a date for presidential and legislative elections and reforming the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is in charge of long-stalled peace efforts with Israel.
What happened in the past days is something like a declaration of principles while the two sides have postponed final status issues to the talks in Cairo, said Gaza political analyst Akram Attallah.
Abbas has pledged there would be one authority, one law, one administration, one weapon in the Gaza Strip, a statement seeming to challenge Hamas continued security dominance.
But Tayseer Nasrallah, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, told Reuters: There are difficult challenges and it will take time to overcome them.
Outstanding issues include the fate of 40,000 to 50,000 employees hired by Hamas over the past 10 years and its demand Abbas lift economic sanctions he imposed in recent months to try to pressure the group to compromise.
Writing by Nidal Almughrabi; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Raissa Kasolowsky