The Islamic State claimed credit for a rocket attack off the coast of the Sinai that set an Egyptian ship ablaze earlier today. The attack was confirmed by the Egyptian military, which disputed the jihadist group’s claim that the ship was destroyed and all crew members were killed.
The Islamic State released a brief statement on Twitter, as well as three photographs purporting to show the attack (below). The statement and photographs were obtained by the SITE Intelligence Group. The authenticity of the photographs cannot be independently confirmed.
“[T]he mujahideen were able to target a frigate of the naval forces of the apostate Egyptian army in the Mediterranean Sea, north of Rafah, and that was with a guided rocket,” the Islamic State’s Sinai province claimed, according to a translation by SITE. “It led to its complete destruction and the elimination of all who were in it.”
Egypt’s official military spokesman said in a statement released on his Facebook page that a coast guard vessel was “securing the Mediterranean coast to the city of Rafah,” and then responded to “the movements of some terrorist elements on the coast, so it chased and exchanged gunfire, which led to the launch catching fire without loss of life.”
The Egyptian military is “currently combing the entire area and hunting the terrorist elements involved in the commission of the incident,” the spokesman continued.
The type of ship that has been struck has not been disclosed. The Islamic State said it hit a “frigate.” The Egyptian navy is known to operate US-supplied Oliver Hazard Perry and Knox-class frigates. The ship shown in the Islamic State photographs does not appear to be either of those types of vessel.
The images released by the Islamic State indicate that a rocket was indeed fired from the coast at an Egyptian naval vessel. The first photograph shows a palm tree in the foreground while a projectile trailing smoke is heading towards a ship. The Islamic State circled the rocket to highlight it.
The type of weapon used to target the ship has not been disclosed, however the Islamic State’s Sinai province is known to have seized and used Kornet anti-tank missiles in a major attack in the Sinai on July 1. Anti-tank missiles can be used to target naval craft operating close to the shore.
The July 1 attack was a coordinated operation that targeted military personnel and police stations in El Arish and Sheikh Zuweid, both of which are located in the northern Sinai near the border with the Gaza strip and Israel. At least three suicide bombers and dozens of fighters launched the multi-pronged attack that caught Egyptian security forces off guard. [See LWJ report, Islamic State’s Sinai ‘province’ launches coordinated attacks against Egyptian forces.]
The Sinai province, which was formerly known as Ansar Bayt al Maqdis (ABM), swore allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in November 2014. Baghdadi quickly accepted the oath of allegiance days after the pledge. [See LWJ report, Islamic State leader claims ‘caliphate’ has expanded in new audio message.]
The use of anti-tank rockets against naval vessels may have a chilling effect on shipping in the region. The Suez Canal is a major transit point between the Indian ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Dozens of ship pass through the canal each day.
Islamic State photographs purporting to show a rocket striking an Egyptian “frigate”
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