Gen. Hussein Tantawi, left, and President Mohammed Mursi Photo: Sherif Abd El Minoem, AP
Breaking news: Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi has ordered the retirement of Egypt’s entire military leadership, the SCAF (the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces), including Defense Minister Mohamad Hussein Tantawi and commanders of the navy, air defense and air force.
Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi today sacked the powerful Army chief and his No 2 and annulled a constitutional amendment issued by the generals, in a drastic move by the new-to-power Islamists to shuffle the top brass of the entrenched military.
Mursi packed off Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi as well as the second-in-command General Sami Anan into “retirement” and appointed both of them as ‘advisers’ to the president. Both of them were also given Egypt’s highest state honour—the Nile Medal.
The shock announcement over state television came amid an ongoing military operation in Sinai, where 16 soldiers were killed in an attack by militants last week.
Mr. Morsi has been in a power struggle with the military since he came to power on June 30. Shortly before he was announced the winner of elections, the ruling military council that took power after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster stripped the presidency of many of its key powers.
Mr. Morsi also appointed a senior judge, Mahmoud Mekki, as vice president. All decisions are effective immediately.
Outgoing Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi headed the ruling military council for 17 months after Mubarak’s ouster in February 2011. Before that, he was defense minister for nearly two decades under Mr. Mubarak. The military council’s No. 2, Chief of Staff Sami Annan, was also ordered to retire. But both men were appointed advisers to Mr. Morsi, according to state television.
Presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said told a news conference aired on state TV that Mr. Morsi named a career army officer, Lt. Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, to replace Tantawi and Lt. Gen. Sidki Sayed Ahmed to replace Annan.
Mr. Morsi also ordered the retirement of the commanders of the navy, air defense and air force. The retired navy commander, Lt. Gen. Mohan Mameesh, was named as chairman of the Suez Canal, the strategic waterway linking the Red Sea and the Mediterranean and a major source of revenues for the country.
Field Marshal Tantawi – ….- has not yet indicated whether he accepts the moves.
The BBC’s Yolande Knell in Cairo says the president’s intervention is clearly an attempt to take decisive action in his tug of war for control with the armed forces.
Under the interim constitutional declaration issued before Mr Mursi was sworn in, the president cannot rule on matters related to the military – including appointing its leaders.