ISIS undertakes first naval operation in Egypt

ISIS carries out first naval attack in Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula mediterranean coast

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Shortly after an Egyptian navy vessel was set alight, the Egyptian affiliate of ISIS, Ansar Beit al Maqdis - now known as Wilayet Sinai (Sinai Province) - claimed responsibility for the attack on its Twitter accounts, posting detailed photos showing a rocket landing on the Egyptian vessel and heavily damaging it.

According to an Egyptian army spokesman, soldiers on board the vessel spotted the militants and initiated an exchange of fire.

"The [coastguard] launch crew suspected the movements of some terrorist elements on the coast, so it chased [them] and exchanged gunfire, which led to the launch catching fire without loss of life," said the statement posted to Facebook.

This is ISIS’ first attack against a naval vessel. All past incidents took place exclusively on dry land across the Sinai, particularly in the towns Rafah and Sheikh Zuwaid in the north.

The overland route across the Sinai is usually packed with army checkpoints which are frequently targeted by ISIS affiliates.

Wilayet Sinai frequently releases videos showing attacks on these checkpoints, with gunmen conducting drive by shootings or bombs planted by the side of the road exploding when military cars and tanks approach.

The Egyptian Army foiled a suicide car bomb attack on Wednesday at a military checkpoint between Cairo and Suez that was claimed by ISIS affiliates in Egypt.

July 1 saw the north of the Sinai engulfed with clouds of smoke, when over a 100 people dying in confrontations between the Egyptian army and ISIS militants in Sheikh Zuwaid.

The army said that 17 soldiers died in the attack.

The ISIS rampage came days after Egypt’s top prosecutor Hisham Barakat was assassinated in a car bombing in Cairo. The Egyptian government frequently blames the Muslim Brotherhood, to which Egypt’s deposed previous President Mohamed Morsi belongs, for violent attacks in the Sinai and elsewhere.

However the Brotherhood, which has been outlawed by the current Egyptian government, has consistently reiterated its commitment to peaceful activism, and pointed out that the current

government doesn’t differentiate between hardline extreme groups like ISIS and itself.

Barakat was one of the top government officials who orchestrated the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, he was also in the panel that ordered the dispersal of the camps of Brotherhood supporters at Cairo’s Rabaa and Nahda squares.

The dispersal of the camps saw over 1,000 people killed and more arrested who were given harsh politicised sentences, including mass death sentences and life imprisonment.

Rabaa square’s will be renamed to Hisham Barakat square, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi announced following Barakat’s assassination.

Wilayet Sinai considers the Egyptian Army and Brotherhood alike as “Infidels,” and wages a war against all who take part in the Egyptian government or are Brotherhood members. Attacks by the group target the Egypt’s army and police forces in particular.

Thousands of native Sheikh Zuwaid and Rafah residents have been displaced as a result of confrontations between the group and the army, with the army executing several air strikes on Sheikh Zuwaid in hopes of forcing the militant insurgency out of the region.

The devastated city is now a borderline ghost town, with schools and homes brought to the ground and even civilian casualties in either the confrontations, the suicide bombings, or the army air strikes.

TRTWorld and agencies