Interior minister removed as Egypt struggles against militants

Egypt`s Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, whose security forces have struggled to curb attacks by Islamist militants, was replaced in a cabinet reshuffle on Thursday, the presidency announced.

The removal of Ibrahim follows mounting concern over the militant attacks that have surged since Islamist president Mohamed Morsi`s ouster in 2013.

Ibrahim, a Morsi appointee who survived a September 2013 assassination bid on the way to his Cairo office, was reassigned to the post of deputy prime minister.

He was replaced by Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, who headed the Department of National Security in 2011 before retiring two years later.

Others dropped from the cabinet were the ministers for agriculture, education, communication, culture and tourism.

The presidency also introduced a ministry of state for population and one for technical education.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi swore in the new ministers, his office said.

"The purpose of the cabinet reshuffle is to inject new blood" in the government, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab said, quoted by state media.

Ibrahim, as head of the police force, cracked down on supporters of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood after his ouster by then army chief Sisi in July 2013.

Hundreds of Morsi supporters have been killed in the crackdown, most of them on a single day on August 14, 2013 when police stormed two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo.

Thousands more have also been jailed in sweeping police raids across the country.

After Morsi`s ouster, Egypt`s once hated police have been rehabilitated in the eyes of the public.

The 2011 revolt against former president Hosni Mubarak was fuelled by police abuses, but the police have since regained popularity amid widespread yearning of stability after years of political turmoil.

But it faced renewed flak after a female demonstrator was killed in clashes with police during a rare leftwing demonstration in central Cairo on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the January 25, 2011 anti-Mubarak uprising.

Shaima al-Sabbagh died of birdshot wounds, and fellow demonstrators said she was hit when police fired to disperse the march. Prosecutors are investigating the case.Ibrahim`s removal comes amid mounting criticism of the failure of security forces to prevent militant attacks.

Jihadist groups have carried out a string of deadly attacks targeting security forces in the Sinai Peninsula, and also in other cities including Cairo and Alexandria.

The bloodiest strikes have been claimed by Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, the Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State jihadist group that has captured territory in Iraq and Syria, and also spread into Egypt`s neighbour Libya.

On January 29, at least 30 people, mostly soldiers, were killed when militants attacked a military base and other security posts in North Sinai.

Egypt`s army has poured troops and armour to fight jihadists in the peninsula where joint police and military operations have killed scores of militants, the army says.

New Interior Minister Abdel Ghaffar comes from the Department of National Security that was infamous during the Mubarak regime and was once led by feared former interior minister Habib al-Adly.

The military junta that ruled Egypt after Mubarak was toppled had appointed Abdel Ghaffar as head of the Department of National Security, a post he held for two years.