Egypt arrests three over gun attack on Suez Canal ship

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Egyptian authorities arrested three people believed to have opened fire with machine guns on a ship passing through the Suez Canal, a military source told Reuters on Sunday.

Following an unsuccessful attack on Saturday, the Panamanian-registered container ship COSCO ASIA came under fire in a northern section of the canal, a major global trade artery which is secured by the Egyptian armed forces.

“There was an attempt to disrupt security in an area called el-Qantara as they fired at a ship in an attempt to halt (traffic on) the waterway,” said the army source.

“Three were arrested and they have been dealt with ... This attack could not have harmed the ships,” the source said, without giving any details except that an investigation was underway.

The head of the Suez Canal Authority said in a statement on Saturday that a “terrorist” had launched the attack against a Panamanian-flagged ship, adding that “the attempt failed completely and there was no damage to the ship or the containers it carried,” AFP news agency reported.

Sources told Reuters that even if a grenade had struck the ship, it would have had a limited impact. The aim, they said, was to create a media frenzy and hurt Egypt's image.

Loud explosions from the container ship which had been passing through the canal, they added.

Asked if the military suspected the attack was part of a broader campaign to disrupt the movement of ships, the army source told Reuters: “I don't think so because the Suez Canal is secured.”

Any major attack on the Suez Canal would hammer Egypt's economy, which depends heavily on revenue from the 192-km (120mile) waterway, the quickest sea route between Asia and Europe.

The Egyptian army has ordered heightened security measures at the strategic sea route.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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