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Egyptian Sailors Missing After Navy Vessel Hit in Unprecedented 'Terrorist' Attack

An Egyptian navy vessel came under attack in the Mediterranean today while conducting a training mission. Five personnel were injured and eight are still missing.
Image via US Navy

An Egyptian navy vessel came under "terrorist" attack in the Mediterranean on Wednesday, leaving eight personnel missing and five injured, armed forces officials said.

A number of boats fired on a military craft conducting a training mission around 45 miles off the coast of northeastern Damietta province, according to the state-run MENA news agency.

Egypt's Sinai Peninsula has been at the center of a full-blown insurgency since the military removed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi from power in mid-2013. However, this is the first such sea-borne attack.


Four boats used in the strike were destroyed along with some of their occupants, and 32 suspects were arrested and are now being interrogated, armed forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Mohammed Samir said today on his official Facebook page. "Search and rescue operations have evacuated five wounded personnel to a military hospital," Samir added. "Eight personnel are still missing and a search for them is being carried out."

Egypt has the seventh largest navy in the world by numbers, according to Global Firepower, with a force made up primarily of frigates and a large number of coastal defense craft. Large numbers of drug and people smugglers operate close to Egyptian waters.

This attack comes days after Egypt's most active extremist militant group, Ansar Beit al Maqdis (which roughly translates to Supporters of the Holy House) pledged its allegiance to the terrorist organization known as the Islamic State.

Al Qaeda-inspired Egyptian terrorist group pledges allegiance to the Islamic State. Read more here.

Ansar Beit al Maqdis, which has killed dozens of Egyptian troops and police officers in attacks launched from its Sinai base, announced the move in an audio recording posted to its official Twitter account on Monday.

The group first emerged during the power vacuum that followed Egypt's 2011 revolution, but stepped up an offensive on the country's security forces after Morsi's ouster. It has since claimed responsibility for a number of high-profile attacks, including a tourist bus bombing near the Israeli border that killed three South Koreans and an Egyptian, and a failed attempt to assassinate Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim. It is suspected to have been involved in a recent large-scale assault on Egyptian army checkpoints in late October that left 31 troops dead and prompted officials to declare a state of emergency in several parts of the Sinai.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian and United Arab Emirates embassies in Libya were damaged in car bomb attacks in the capital of Tripoli today. There were no casualties — both buildings had been closed since Islamist militia factions seized control of the city in August.

Libya is suffering the worst violence seen since longtime autocrat Muammar Qaddafi was overthrown in 2011's armed uprising. The mainly Islamist militias that now control Tripoli and Benghazi believe that the UAE and Egypt back their nationalist rivals.

Follow John Beck on Twitter: @JM_Beck

Image via Flickr