Egypt's Sisi replaces ministers in cabinet overhaul

New cabinet represents major overhaul with fresh faces appointed to ministerial positions including key finance portfolio.

CAIRO - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi replaced the interior and defence ministers in a major reshuffle Thursday, with security forces battling an Islamist insurgency at the start of his second term.

Sisi, who also named a new finance minister, swept to another four years in office against a token challenger at elections in March, pledging to tackle the raft of security and economic challenges facing the country.

Egyptian forces have since February been waging a sweeping operation against the local affiliate of the Islamic State group in the restive North Sinai province.

The new cabinet under freshly appointed Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli, who previously served as housing minister, was sworn in live on state TV.

The cabinet now has a total of eight female ministers for the first time in Egypt's history after Madbouli appointed two new female ministers, in addition to the six in the outgoing cabinet.

The newly appointed female ministers are Hala Zayed as health minister and Yasmine Fouad as environment minister.

General Mohamed Ahmed Zaki Mohamed, who led the republican guard since August 2012, became the new defence minister in place of Sedki Sobhi.

Sobhi had held the post since taking over from Sisi when he ran for the top office in 2014, a year after spearheading the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi during mass protests.

The position of interior minister was filled by General Mahmoud Tawfiq, who had led the national security apparatus since October 2017, replacing Magdi Abdel Ghaffar.

Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed Moeet, who has previously held several government posts in various ministries, replaced Amr el-Garhy in the key role of finance minister.

Egyptian authorities are implementing a sweeping economic reform programme that prompted the International Monetary Fund to approve a three-year, $12-billion loan in November 2016.

Authorities have since also floated Egypt's currency, cut fuel subsidies and adopted a value added tax, measures which have led to soaring consumer prices.

Other changes included the ministers overseeing aviation, health, communications, environment, commerce and agriculture.

The former cabinet resigned on June 5, days after Sisi was inaugurated for a second term.

Sisi has long promised to wipe out the Islamist insurgency in the Sinai as a spate of deadly attacks have hit the country.

Officials say more than 200 jihadists and at least 35 soldiers have been killed since the military launched the "Sinai 2018" operation.

Sisi was re-elected in March for his second term with 97 percent of the vote. He faced only one little-known challenger after more serious opponents were either detained or sidelined.