In a first-ever attack by the Islamic State against Egypt, an Egyptian missile ship was hijacked after coming under fire by four smaller ships manned by Islamic State terrorists. The attack took place near the northern end of the Suez Canal, about 40 nautical miles north of the port of Damietta, at dawn.
After staging a car accident in the canal and making it look like the Egyptian vessel was the cause, Islamic State fighters were able to board the Egyptian vessel and commandeer it into the open seas. The target of the hijacked ship – which was transporting 200 Egyptian military personnel to the northern Sinai — was to be Israeli ships and gas rigs located further north.
According to Arab media, the terrorists also planned to kidnap Israeli personnel and use them to bargain for the release of Palestinian prisoners.
As the vessel set sail in the Mediterranean Sea, it was asked to identify itself by the Egyptian fleet. When the terrorists did not respond to their request, Egyptian forces' suspicions were aroused. A subsequent use of the vessel’s radio system identified the terrorists as Islamic State fighters to the Egyptians.
Egyptian navy vessels, as well as airforce helicopters, were sent to pursue the terrorists. With close cooperation between the Egyptian and Israeli navies, according to an Israeli TV report, the terrorists were “neutralized.” Egypt’s official news agency, MENA, reported that, in the course of fire exchanged with the terrorists, the ship was set on fire.
Egyptian forces also attacked the four smaller Islamic State boats, arresting 32 terrorists. One report listed four Islamic State fighters as being killed. Eight Egyptian navy personnel were listed missing at sea after the operation and five were hospitalized due to injuries.
Although the incident took place on November 12, new information was brought to light yesterday, when it was revealed that terrorists linked to the Islamic State had staged the attack.
Egypt’s former head of naval intelligence General Yosri Kandil called the attack a “quantum leap for terrorism.”
In November, it was reported that the jihadi group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, an Al Qaeda affiliate in the Sinai, had changed its loyalties from Al-Qaeda to the Islamic State. In a statement, the group pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State’s self-appointed “caliph" Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The jihadi group has been responsible for a number of deadly attacks in the Sinai against Egyptian military personnel since Egypt’s Islamist president Mohammed Morsi was forced out of office by the military after massive protests by the Egyptian people.
According to Egyptian military sources, “The Egyptian security forces are looking into the possibility that a foreign country gave logistical assistance to the Islamic State militants [in the attack].”