Egyptian authorities have reported a failed attack on a container ship in the strategically crucial Suez Canal. It comes as the security situation in the North Sinai region becomes increasingly precarious.
The head of the Suez Canal Authority, Admiral Mohab Mamish, confirmed that an attempted attack had been made on a Panama-flagged ship on the Canal on Saturday, but said the attempt failed.
"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," he said in a statement.
"The attempt failed completely and there was no damage to the ship or the containers it carried," the statement went on, adding that the armed forces had dealt "strictly" with the situation and that navigation of the waterway had continued virtually uninterrupted.
The statement did not say what the nature of the attack was, but some sources have spoken of hearing explosions at the time it occurred.
Nearly 200 kilometers (125 miles) of the Suez Canal provides a vital link between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean and is secured by Egyptian armed forces. Mamish said they had been ordered to step up their security measures along the waterway following Saturday's attempted attack.
Egypt has seen a string of militant attacks in the already lawless North Sinai region around the canal after the army ousted the country's first elected Islamist President Mohammed Morsi on July 3. The army recently launched a major operation in the area to combat several Islamist militant groups that operate there.
On Saturday, the military reportedly arrested a top Sinai militant, Adel Mohammed, also known as Adel Habara, in the regional capital al-Arish. The official Mena news agency said other "terrorists" were arrested along with him.
Habara has already been sentenced to death in absentia for killing soldiers in the Nile Delta last year, and is also suspected of leading an ambush last week in which 25 off-duty policemen were lined up and shot dead.
More than two dozen security men have been killed alone since July in the North Sinai region.
tj/ccp (Reuters, AFP, AP)