Al Furqan Brigades claim 2 attacks on ships in Suez Canal, threaten more
A video uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 4 appears to show two men firing rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) at a container ship crossing the Suez Canal. In the 51-second video, members of a group calling itself the al Furqan Brigades are seen firing on the Panamanian-registered Cosco Asia.
In addition to the video, an online statement, which was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, was also released. In the communiqué, the group said it carried out the attack because the Suez Canal "has become a safe passageway for the Crusader aircraft carriers to strike the Muslims, and it is the artery of the commerce of the nations of disbelief and tyranny."
The group also denounced the Egyptian military's ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as the Brotherhood's decision to give "legitimacy to the ballot boxes and not to Allah." "[T]he road for Allah's word to be supreme is the ammunition box and not the ballot box," the statement continued.
The statement further claimed that the recent attack was the second time the group had targeted ships in the Suez Canal. On July 29, the al Furqan Brigades released a statement claiming responsibility for an RPG attack on a ship traveling through the Suez Canal. Video from the purported attack in July was uploaded to YouTube on Aug. 4.
The group's latest statement, dated Sept. 2, concluded by warning: "We can target the international water passage morning and night, along the entire length of the waterway, which is 190km in length, and we will return to target it whenever we wish."
Although the authenticity of the newest video and statement has not yet been verified, they appear to match press reports regarding an incident involving the Cosco Asia on Aug. 31.
On Aug. 31, the head of the Suez Canal Authority Mohab Memish released a statement that said "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," Reuters reported.
"[T]here was no damage to the ship or the containers it carried," Memish further stated.
At the time, Reuters reported that sources said they had heard "the sound of two explosions as the ship passed through the waterway." The following day, army sources told Reuters that they had arrested three people for firing machine guns at the Cosco Asia. In the same report, Reuters noted that "Suez Canal Authority sources said a rocket-propelled grenade had been used in the attack."
Despite the claim of responsibility, security officials are "sure that the operation was a random operation that is not backed by an organization," according to Reuters. On Sept. 1, Bloomberg reported that Egyptian authorities had "tightened security along the Suez Canal" after the attack on the Cosco Asia.
The latest incident involving the Cosco Asia is not the first time terrorists have tried to target ships passing through the Suez Canal. For example, in July 2009, Egyptian authorities announced the arrest of 26 individuals "suspected of links to al Qaeda," who were allegedly plotting to target ships passing through the waterway.
Additionally, in April 2010, an Egyptian court handed down prison sentences to 26 members of a Hezbollah cell that was aiming to target foreign ships in the Suez Canal in addition to tourist sites in Egypt. Last month, on Aug. 22, two members of the cell, Muhammad Yusuf Ahmad Mansur and Muhammad Qabalan, were designated by the US Treasury Department.