CAIRO - Bringing army back to political scene, the virtual ultimatum issued by the head of Egypt's armed forces, General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, giving rival politicians 48 hours to resolve the country's standoff, was seen as a looming coup on Egypt's first democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi.
The statement came less than one year of his appointment as the general commander of Egypt's armed forces and defense minister on 12 August 2012, to end the military grip on power, the BBC reported on Tuesday, July 2.
General El Sisi was born in Cairo on 19 November 1954.
After graduation from the Egyptian Military Academy in 1977, he served in the infantry corps, gaining no combat experience like Field Marshal Tantawi and other SCAF members.
Yet, he 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 Defense Ministry.
He also served as Egypt's military attachÃ© 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.
Prior to his promotion to head of the armed forces last August, he sat on the Scaf as the former head of Military Intelligence, and was one of its youngest members.
In the months since his appointment, charismatic Gen Sisi has maintained a calm public persona that is far from a stern military figure.
Appointed after Morsi's civilian counter-coup, many rumors spread about Gen Sisi's relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, to which President Mohamed Morsi belongs.
These rumors were basically reported by private newspapers and satellite channels, which usually support opposition.
The pro-military owner and presenter of the TV station al-Faraeen, Tawfiq Ukasha, accused El Sisi of being "their man in Scaf", and reports also emerged that his wife wore the niqab, a full-face veil worn by some Muslim women.
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," Abdul Fattah wrote.
In August 2012, 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 "co-operation with regard to war games and intelligence operations in recent years", it said.
Recent army actions have also given anti-government protesters hope that Gen Sisi will not allow the government to silence them.
After his ultimatum to the government and its opponents to resolve the country's crisis by 48 hours, army helicopters threw thousands of Egyptian flags over protesters in the iconic Tahrir Square.
The cheering crowds responded with chants of "the people and the army are one hand".
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), comprising 21 senior military figures led by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, ruled Egypt after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 until President Mohamed Morsi took office in June 2012.
The SCAF was criticized during its period of rule for failing to implement the demands of revolutionaries.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net