Egypt shakes up police top brass amid struggle with militant attacks

CAIRO (AFP) - Egypt's new Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar has made major changes to his senior police command, a ministry statement said late Friday, as security forces struggle with ongoing Islamist militant attacks.

Abdel Ghaffar was appointed on Thursday after his predecessor, Mohamed Ibrahim, who spearheaded a deadly police crackdown against supporters of ousted president Mohamed Mursi, was removed in a cabinet reshuffle.

The minister appointed 25 new commanders to head various top security posts in a major shake-up.

The changes include appointing aides for national security and security in the Sinai Peninsula, where a growing Islamist insurgency has killed scores of policemen and soldiers.

Police commanders in several governorates and cities including Cairo were also changed.

Egypt has been struggling to crush militant attacks that have been on the rise since Mursi's removal in 2013.

One person was killed and 11 others wounded in a bomb attack late Friday outside a mobile phone shop and a bank in the textile hub of Mahallah, north of Cairo.

Several explosive devices have been set off near phone shops in Cairo recently, although they have been rudimentary.

The deadliest attacks have been in the Sinai Peninsula where Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, the Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, is spearheading an insurgency against the security forces.

Militant groups say their attacks are in retaliation to a government crackdown against Morsi supporters that has left hundreds dead.

Ibrahim, who led the police crackdown against Mursi supporters, was removed amid mounting criticism over the failure to prevent militant attacks.

After Mursi's ouster, Egypt's once-hated police force was largely rehabilitated in the eyes of the public.

But it faced renewed flak in January when a female demonstrator was killed in clashes with police during a rare leftwing demonstration in Cairo on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the revolt against former president Hosni Mubarak.

Shaima al-Sabbagh died of birdshot wounds, and fellow demonstrators said she was hit when police fired to disperse a march. Prosecutors are investigating the case.