Profile: Egypt armed forces chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi
General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has been appointed both the new general commander of Egypt's armed forces and the country's defence minister.
His promotion on 12 August came after President Mohammed Mursi surprised many observers by ordering the retirement of Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) and defence minister, as well as the military's chief-of-staff.
Mr Mursi also issued a decree nullifying the interim constitutional declaration of June 2012 that gave Scaf extensive executive and legislative powers following the handover to a civilian administration.
Gen Sisi had until then sat on the Scaf as the former head of Military Intelligence, and was one of its youngest members.'Virginity tests'
Born in Cairo on 19 November 1954, Gen Sisi served in the infantry corps after graduating from the Egyptian Military Academy in 1977.
Despite never gaining any combat experience - like Field Marshal Tantawi and other Scaf members - he nevertheless rose up the ranks in the army, occupying various senior positions, including commander of the mechanized infantry battalion and head of information and security at the general secretariat of the defence ministry. He also served as Egypt's military attache in Saudi Arabia.
Later, Gen Sisi served as chief-of-staff and then commander of the Northern Military Zone, headquartered in Alexandria, before being appointed director of Military Intelligence and Reconnaissance.
As expected of someone in that role, Gen Sisi did not frequently appear in the media, but in April 2012 he hit the headlines after issuing a statement intended to defend the behaviour of the armed forces during protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square in 2011.
When officers violently cleared Tahrir Square on 9 March, 17 women were detained, beaten, prodded with electric shock batons, subjected to strip searches, forced to submit to "virginity tests" and threatened with prostitution charges.
The women were later brought before a military court and released four days later. Several received one-year suspended sentences for charges including disorderly conduct, destroying property, obstructing traffic and possession of weapons.
Gen Sisi said "the virginity-test procedure was done to protect the girls from rape as well to protect the soldiers and officers from rape accusations", according to the state-owned newspaper, al-Ahram.
The Scaf quickly distanced itself from the comments, but it remained a stigma for the military.
Later, during a meeting in Cairo in June, Gen Sisi promised the human rights group, Amnesty International, that the army would no longer carry out the controversial tests. He said people alleging human rights abuses at the hands of the army should complain to the military prosecutor and stressed the importance of ensuring social justice for all Egyptians.'Strong US ties'
Following his appointment as defence minister and armed forces chief, many commentators in the Egypt media asked questions about Gen Sisi's relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood.
The pro-military owner and leading presenter of the TV station al-Faraeen, Tawfiq Ukasha, accused him of having close ties to the Islamist movement, to which President Mursi belongs.
Mr Ukasha alleged that Gen Sisi was "their man in Scaf" and reports also emerged that his wife wore the niqab, a full-face veil worn by some Muslim women, al-Ahram reported.
However, the Scaf insisted that its members had no partisan or ideological affiliation to any political forces in Egypt.
Mutaz Abdul Fattah, a professor at Cairo University, also said Gen Sisi did not belong to the Muslim Brotherhood, writing on Twitter: "He is not a member of the Brotherhood; he is just a religious man."
The newspaper, al-Tahrir, also reported that Gen Sisi had "strong ties with US officials on both diplomatic and military levels".
He had studied in Washington, attended several military conferences there, and engaged in "joint co-operation with regard to war games and intelligence operations in recent years", it said.
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