Cairo burning under massive protests and a military coup, no man is in a greater position of control than Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Sissi, the head of the Egyptian military.
Al-Sissi just took to Egyptian television to announce that under his authority, Mohammed Morsi was no longer the president of Egypt. He suspended the constitution and appointed the head of Egypt’s constitutional court to the role of interim president.
Al-Sissi, the name being chanted by the millions of protesters in Tahrir Square, is a 36-year veteran of the Egyptian Army who was appointed defence minister by Morsi, the man whose ouster he now leads.
Morsi appointed the deeply religious 58-year-old last year in an effort to replacing the ageing military leaders who headed the military under Hosni Mubarak.
But the move clearly backfired, as al-Sissi didn’t seem to hesitate before he took control of the game in Egypt.
Al-Sissi has close ties to the west, having attended both the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Penn., and the United Kingdom’s Joint Services Command and Staff College.
“Insiders in the U.S. government and military were aware of him. He was a name that was mentioned when people talked about next generations,” said Robert Springborg, an expert on the Egyptian military based at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.
But he’s also been affiliated with the conservative Muslim Brotherhood. When he was appointed by Morsi last year, there was some speculation in the Egyptian press that he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, or at least a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer.
His wife is reported to wear a niqab, the full-face veil worn by some Muslim women. The military has said that no member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has any political affiliations, and that al-Sissi is simply a deeply religious man.
Tawfiq Ukasha, the pro-military owner a key television station, said that he thought al-Sissi was the Muslim Brotherhood’s man in the SCAF.
During the uprisings in 2011, al-Sissi defended a practice by the Egyptian military to perform “virginity checks” on female detainees. Al-Sissi told Amnesty International that the checks were done to protect the military against allegations of rape and sexual assault. He said they would no longer occur.
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