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In a move that seems to have taken everyone by surprise, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi forced into retirement his powerful defense minister, the army chief of staff, and several senior generals Sunday. He also canceled a measure that had been implemented by the military that curbed presidential powers. “The stunning purge,” as the New York Times describes it, seems to be the clearest move by the Islamist president to restore the powers of his office that had been taken away by the military since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak last year.
It wasn’t clear whether the defense minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, had agreed to the move. But Reuters hears that Morsi consulted with both Tantawi and General Sami Enan, the army chief of staff, before ordering them to retire. They were both immediately appointed as advisers to the president. The president also ordered the heads of the navy, air defense, and air force into retirement, reports the Associated Press.
Ever since he took office at the end of June, Morsi has been locked in a power struggle with the military. Now it seems the army may have underestimated the new president, writes the BBC’s Kevin Connolly. Morsi appears to have been able to use the killings of 16 Egyptian soldiers last week, which put on display severe weaknesses in the army and shocked the public, to get rid of key military officials.