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September 21, 2017

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Egypt's el-Sissi ditches army fatigues, quits as defense minister

CAIRO, Egypt--Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sissi ditched his military fatigues on Thursday and resigned as Egypt's defense minister, a day after announcing he would run for president.

El-Sissi turned up in civilian clothes at the weekly cabinet meeting to submit his resignation as minister after quitting as army chief the previous night, state news agency MENA reported.

Meanwhile, General Sedki Sobhi was sworn in as the new defence minister and army chief on Thursday, while Lieutenant General Mahmoud Hegazi replaced Sobhi as army chief of staff, the presidency said. Hegazy is the father-in-law of el-Sissi's son.

Declaring his widely anticipated candidacy in his televised address to the nation on Wednesday, el-Sissi vowed to fight "terrorism" and work towards restoring the country's battered economy.

Wildly popular el-Sissi faces no serious competition in the presidential election to be held before June and is widely seen as the only leader able to restore order after more than three years of turmoil since the Arab Spring overthrow of veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak.

"With all modesty, I nominate myself for the presidency of Egypt," el-Sissi said in his address to the nation, attired in his field marshal's uniform and sitting behind a desk.

He also vowed to fight militancy, which has killed more than 200 policemen and troops since el-Sissi's ouster of elected president Mohamed Morsi last July.

Egypt's media hailed his speech, splashing it across their front pages on Thursday.

"Finally, el-Sissi officially announces candidacy for president," said independent daily, Al-Masry Al-Youm, while state-run Al-Akhbar said: "El-Sissi starts his walk to presidential palace."

Egyptians in the street too welcomed the announcement, saying it was inevitable that el-Sissi would become president.

El-Sissi's candidacy is likely to further inflame Islamist protests and worry those secular activists who fear a return to rule by military men and the strong-arm tactics of the Mubarak era.

Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood rejected his candidacy outright.

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