A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Who Attacked the Egyptian Navy?

There are still a lot of open questions about yesterday's attack on an Egyptian Navy vessel yesterday, leaving five sailors injured and eight missing. The military claims that with the help of the Air Force four boats were sunk, four attackers killed and 32 arrested. Unconfirmed reports suggested that the Egyptian vessel, whose name and class have apparently not been disclosed, had caught fire.

The Egyptian state media is clearly blaming Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which has been waging an insurgency in the Sinai; after 31 were killed three weeks ago, Egypt declared a three-month State of Emergency and began evacuating a strip of land to prevent infiltration from Gaza. Attcks on soldiers and police have continued in Sinai, and this week Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis announced its adherence to the Islamic State. But if the attack on the Navy ship was carried out by them, it marks a daring new tactic.

The Navy has clashed in the past with smugglers; both goods smuggling and human trafficking is increasingly a problem in unstable parts of North Africa, including Sinai. (Though this attack occurred in the Mediterranean off Damietta.)  But it seems unlikely smugglers would attack a Navy vessel if it carried armament. (Again, if the vessel has been identified I haven't seen it.) It could also be an attempt to smuggle radical Jihadis into Egypt.

Less serious, less lethal attacks continue in Cairo, including one this week in which a "sonic bomb" was detonated in the Cairo Metro. The blast did little damage but 16 people were injured in a stampede trying to escape the Metro station.

No comments: