Attack in Suez Canal fails to stop traffic

Unsuccessful attack on a Panama-flagged container ship comes against the backdrop of continued unrest in Egypt

A picture taken on June 13, 2013 shows the American Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower crossing the Suez canal off the coast of Ismailia port city, east of Cairo.
AFP/Getty Images

Suez Canal authorities have said that a "terrorist" staged an unsuccessful attack on a container ship passing through the canal. The attack was said to be an attempt to disrupt the flow of ships through the waterway.

The Suez Canal is a key global shipping lane, and secured by the Egyptian armed forces. The canal provided passage to a U.S. warship Thursday, on its way to the Mediterranean to join other vessels in that could be used in a strike against Syria after an alleged chemical weapons attack.

"One of the terrorist elements has carried out a failed attempt to affect the movement of ships in the Suez Canal by targeting one of the passing ships, Cosco Asia," the head of the Suez Canal Authority Mohab Memish said in a statement Saturday, referring to the Panama-flagged ship.

"The attempt failed completely and there was no damage to the ship or the containers it carried. The situation was dealt with strictly by the armed forces," he said, adding that the traffic of ships is moving normally.

The statement did not specify what kind of attack it was and authorities provided scant detail about the incident, but shipping sources told Reuters they heard the sound of two explosions as the ship passed through the waterway.

Blocking the canal would have an immediate effect, especially on U.S. security interests and exports from Asian factories to markets in Europe and the United States.

String of attacks

Egypt has faced a string of attacks in the North Sinai region after the army overthrew President Mohamed Morsi on July 3.

More than 1,000 people, including 100 security officers, have died in protests demanding the reinstatement of Morsi. Hundreds of his supporters, including leading Brotherhood members, have been arrested in a crackdown on the group.

Saturday, authorities arrested another top figure from the Brotherhood in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. Former lawmaker Sobhi Saleh was taken into custody on charges of inciting violence and disrupting public order, according to security officials. The son of another Brotherhood figure, Saad Emara, was also detained and ordered held for 15 days.

Also Saturday, Health Ministry spokesman Khaled el-Khateeb raised the death toll of clashes during Friday's pro-Morsi protests in several cities to eight. El-Khateeb said another 221 were injured.

It was not immediately clear whether the attempted Suez Canal attack was related to the ousting of Morsi.

The armed forces have issued an order to strengthen their security measures along the Suez waterway, Memish said.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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