Egypt changes defense, interior ministers in cabinet overhaul

Updated 15 June 2018
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Egypt changes defense, interior ministers in cabinet overhaul

  • Mohamed Ahmed Zaki Mohamed was named minister of defense, replacing Sedki Sobhi.
  • El-Sisi in April won re-election with 97 percent of the vote.

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi replaced the interior and defense ministers in a major reshuffle Thursday, with security forces battling an Islamist insurgency at the start of his second term.
El-Sisi, who also named a new finance minister, swept to another four years in office against a token challenger at elections in March, pledging to tackle the raft of security and economic challenges facing the country.
Egyptian forces have since February been waging a sweeping operation against the local affiliate of the Daesh group in the restive North Sinai province.
The new cabinet under freshly appointed Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli, who previously served as housing minister, was sworn in live on state TV.
General Mohamed Ahmed Zaki Mohamed, who led the republican guard since August 2012, became the new defense minister in place of Sedki Sobhi.
Sobhi had held the post since taking over from El-Sisi when he ran for the top office in 2014, a year after spearheading the ouster of president Muhammad Mursi during mass protests.
The position of interior minister was filled by General Mahmoud Tawfiq, who had led the national security apparatus since October 2017, replacing Magdi Abdel Ghaffar.
Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed Moeet, who has previously held several government posts in various ministries, replaced Amr el-Garhy in the key role of finance minister.
Egyptian authorities are implementing a sweeping economic reform program that prompted the International Monetary Fund to approve a three-year, $12-billion loan in November 2016.
Authorities have since also floated Egypt’s currency, cut fuel subsidies and adopted a value added tax, measures which have led to soaring consumer prices.
Other changes included the ministers overseeing aviation, health, communications, environment, commerce and agriculture.
The former cabinet resigned on June 5, days after El-Sisi was inaugurated for a second term.
El-Sisi has long promised to wipe out the Islamist insurgency in the Sinai as a spate of deadly attacks have hit the country.
Officials say more than 200 jihadists and at least 35 soldiers have been killed since the military launched the “Sinai 2018” operation.
El-Sisi, who has been accused of stamping out dissent in the country, was re-elected in March for his second term with 97 percent of the vote.
He faced only one little-known challenger after more serious opponents were either detained or sidelined.


Boat with migrants rescued off Libya looks for port to dock

Updated 20 January 2019
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Boat with migrants rescued off Libya looks for port to dock

  • Sea-Watch 3 asked where it can bring the 47 migrants it had taken aboard

ROME: A private rescue boat with dozens of migrants aboard sought permission for a second day to enter a safe port Sunday, but said so far its queries to several nations haven’t succeeded. Another vessel crowded with migrants and taking on water, meanwhile, put out an urgent, separate appeal for help in the southern Mediterranean.
Sea-Watch 3, run by a German NGO, said Sunday it has contacted Italy, Malta, Libya as well as the Netherlands, since the boat is Dutch-flagged, asking where it can bring the 47 migrants it had taken aboard. Sea-Watch tweeted that Libyan officials had hung up when it asked for a port assignment.
An Italian state TV reporter aboard Sea-Watch 3 said the rescue took place Saturday about 50 kilometers (30 miles) off the coast west of Tripoli in Libya’s search-and-rescue area. Libya-based human traffickers launch flimsy or rickety boats, crowded with migrants hoping to reach Europe and its opportunities for better lives.
Separately, Sea-Watch tweeted Sunday afternoon that it had been urgently contacted by a boat with 100 migrants aboard that said it was taking on water, 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) from the current location at sea of Sea-Watch 3.
The distressed vessel reported navigational problems and had among the migrants a child “unconscious or deceased,” Sea-Watch said. Subsequent communication said the boat was “taking in water” and asked Sea-Watch to call for help, “regardless of what this would mean concerning a possible return to Libya,” Sea-Watch said.
The aid group later said Malta on the phone confirmed “that they will come back to us” regarding the distress call, but it wasn’t immediately clear what kind of assistance the Maltese might give.
Migrants dread the prospect of being returned to Libya, where they have reported torture including beatings and rapes in overcrowded detention centers.
The governments of Malta and Italy have been refusing to allow private rescue boats rescuing migrants to dock. Both contend that in recent years they have taken in many migrants rescued at sea and that fellow European Union nations must agree to take their share of these asylum-seekers.
Earlier this month, Malta transferred to land 49 migrants who had been aboard Sea-Watch 3 as long as 19 days but refused the boat port entry. They were allowed to set foot on the southern Mediterranean island only after an EU-brokered deal found several countries willing to take them as well as other migrants, who had been rescued at sea earlier in separate operations by Malta.