Egyptian authorities arrest three gunmen after attack on ship in Suez Canal

Egyptian authorities arrested three people who opened fire with machine guns on a ship passing through the Suez Canal, an army source said on Sunday, playing down what the waterway's chief described as a terrorist attack.
During Saturday's unsuccessful attack, the Panamanian-registered container ship COSCO ASIA came under fire in a northern section of the Suez Canal. The canal is a major trade waterway and 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 further details other than that an investigation was underway.
On Saturday, the head of the Suez Canal, Mohab Memish, said a terrorist had carried out the operation, suggesting Islamist militants could have been behind it. Suez Canal Authority sources said a rocket-propelled grenade had been used in the attack.
The sources said 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.
Asked if the military suspected the attack was part of a broader campaign to disrupt the movement of ships, the army source said, "I don't think so because the Suez Canal is secured."
Any major attack on the Suez Canal would be a severe blow to Egypt's economy, which depends heavily on revenue from the 192-km (120 mile) waterway connecting trade from Europe and Asia.
Egypt has faced a rising number of militant attacks on security forces in the nearby North Sinai region after the army, prompted by mass protests, ousted the country's first elected president, Mohamed Morsy.
The growing insecurity in Sinai has also become a worry to the United States because of the area's proximity to Israel and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
The Suez Canal Authority has received threats from unidentified groups which said they would target the waterway, security sources said. At one point the military blocked a bridge over the canal as a precautionary measure because of threats.
On July 30, the Egyptian army investigated reports of an explosion heard near the Suez Canal but found no evidence of a blast after scanning the area.

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