‘Egypt thwarts Islamic State-linked bid to hit Israeli targets at sea’

Gunmen commandeered an Egyptian Navy missile boat on November 12, Israeli TV reports, but were stopped in the Mediterranean by pursuing vessels; 8 people died

A Mediterranean offshore drilling facility (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)
A Mediterranean offshore drilling facility (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Egypt thwarted a bid by Islamic State-affiliated terrorists to attack Israeli targets in the Mediterranean Sea last month, Israel’s Channel 2 reported Monday. The terrorists commandeered an Egyptian Navy missile boat for the planned attack, the TV report said, but were stopped at sea by a pursuing vessel, and eight people were believed killed in the ensuing battle.

At the time of the incident, on November 12, the Egyptian military said one of its navy vessels came under “terrorist” attack in the Mediterranean, leaving five servicemen injured and eight others missing at sea. Four boats used by the assailants were destroyed and 32 of the suspected militants were arrested and were under interrogation, the military said in a statement at the time.

Adding fresh detail to that account, Monday’s Israeli TV report said Islamic State-linked Sunni extremists “staged an accident” and were able to install one of their own group in temporary charge of an Egyptian missile boat. They set out for sea from the port of Damietta, and intended to target Israeli boats and/or gas installations in the Mediterranean.

Egyptian naval authorities, realizing something was awry on the basis of routine radio exchanges with the commandeered vessel, sent out other vessels in pursuit. “They managed to neutralize” the terrorists.

The TV report did not give a source for the new information. It noted the very close cooperation between the Egyptian and Israeli navies.

Egypt’s official MENA news agency had reported on November 12 that a naval vessel was set alight in an exchange of fire with assailants about 70 kilometers off Egypt’s coast. It said the Egyptian air force was also called in to deal with the incident.

Earlier last month, Reuters reported that a Sinai-based al-Qaeda affiliate group declared its fealty to Islamic State, the terror organization which has taken over large parts of Syria and Iraq.

The Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis terror group said in a statement that “after entrusting God we decided to swear allegiance to the emir of the faithful Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, caliph of the Muslims in Syria and Iraq and in other countries,” referring to the leader of IS who has declared the territory under his control to be a new Muslim caliphate and himself its ruler.

The Sinai group has carried out numerous attacks against Egyptian forces since the military overthrew Islamist president Mohammed Morsi last year amid massive protests against him.

AP and AFP contributed to this report.

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