Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi fired his intelligence chief and the governor of Northern Sinai on Wednesday, following the deadly Sunday attack on troops near the Gaza-Egypt-Israel border by suspected Islamist terrorists.
In a major shake-up, Morsi also asked Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi to replace the commander of the military police, a force that has been in heavy use since the ouster 18 months ago of Hosni Mubarak. He also fired the commander of the presidential guard and named new chiefs for Cairo’s security forces and the police’s large central security, a large paramilitary force often deployed to deal with riots.
Sacked Intelligence chief Murad Muwafi was appointed to the post shortly before the Mubarak regime fell last year. He was temporarily replaced Wednesday by Mohammed Raafat Shehata, a former presidential guards commander.
Both Muwafi and Shehata are said to have correct relations with Israel. Shehata was deeply involved in the handover to Israel of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was freed by his Hamas kidnappers, via Egypt, last October.
Israel’s Channel 10 news said Egypt’s military strongman Tantawi pushed for Muwafi’s ouster — settling old scores between the military and intelligence services.
Sacked intelligence chief Muwafi was quoted in Wednesday’s newspapers as saying his agency was warned by Israel ahead of Sunday’s attack, but did not think that Muslims would attack Muslims while breaking their Ramadan fast.
“Yes, we had detailed information about the attack, but we never imagined that a Muslim would kill a Muslim on the hour of breaking the fast in Ramadan,” Muwafi said following a meeting with Morsi on Tuesday.
The attackers killed 16 Egyptian soldiers as they were breaking their daily fast for the holy month of Ramadan with a sunset meal. The terrorists commandeered an armored vehicle that they then used to storm across the border into Israel, where they were targeted by an Israeli airstrike.
Last Thursday Israel warned its citizens to leave Sinai, citing intelligence of a pending attack. The US issued a travel warning the next day.
The Egyptian military hit back on Tuesday night and Wednesday, with air and ground raids on terror targets.
Channel 2’s Arab affairs analyst Ehud Yaari said that there were doubts in Bedouin circles regarding the number of terrorists claimed eliminated by Egyptian forces Wednesday. A statement by the military said they managed to kill 20 in a coordinated attack that included helicopter fire.