Egyptian authorities tighten security following terrorist RPG attack in Suez Canal

Following a terrorist RPG attack on a container ship in the Suez Canal, authorities in Egypt are tightening security and limiting ferry traffic on the canal. The Al Furqan terrorist group released a communiqué following the attack that claimed the 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 same tired language for another group of AQ wannabes.

Authorities take further measures in Suez clamp down

Cairo: In further crackdowns along the key waterway all fishing has been banned in the Suez Canal while the majority of ferries transiting the canal have also been put on hold. A total of 36 ferries have been told they cannot continue to use the canal for the time being as fears persist over terrorist group al Furqan’s determination to continue its attacks on ships transiting the throughfare.

Despite the increased concern about security along the canal, the number of ships continues to be robust with 66 ships passing through yesterday alone. [11/09/13]

http://www.gulfshipnews.com/news_content.php?fid=3w3c442&goback=.gde_4209903_member_272743651#!

Container ship hit by RPG, machine gun fire in Suez Canal

The Cosco Asia was struck by an RPG fired from the shore which struck a container near to the accommodation block. Machine gun fire was also reported.

Egypt Boosts Suez Security as Foiled Attack Shows Risks

Egyptian authorities moved to bolster security along the Suez Canal after a foiled attack on a ship traversing the waterway that handles about 8 percent of world trade spotlighted new threats confronting officials after Mohamed Mursi’s ouster.

The failed Aug. 31 attack on the Panama-registered Cosco (1919) Asia didn’t damage the ship or its cargo, Suez Canal Authority head Mohab Mamish said in a statement yesterday. The military dealt “decisively” with the attempt, he said, without giving details.

A convoy of container ships pass southbound along the Suez Canal towards Suez, Egypt.

Egyptian authorities moved to bolster security along the Suez Canal after a foiled attack on a ship traversing the waterway that handles about 8 percent of world trade spotlighted new threats confronting officials after Mohamed Mursi’s ouster.

The failed Aug. 31 attack on the Panama-registered Cosco (1919) Asia didn’t damage the ship or its cargo, Suez Canal Authority head Mohab Mamish said in a statement yesterday. The military dealt “decisively” with the attempt, he said, without giving details.

The maritime incident underscored the threats in the country as the military-backed government pursues an offensive against the Muslim Brotherhood and militants following Mursi’s July 3 ouster. More than 1,000 people have died, most of them supporters of the toppled Islamist leader who were killed in a single week in August amid clashes with security forces.

“Events like this increase the confusion and cause international embarrassment,” said Adel Soliman, head of the private Strategic Dialogue Forum research institute. “You have a state of turbulence in the street under which anything can happen.”

The waterway and the ships transiting it are completely secure, the state-run Middle East News Agency said today, citing Ossama Askar, commander of the Third Field Army.

State of Emergency

Authorities are already grappling at once with quashing the Brotherhood who see Mursi’s ouster as a “coup” while the military presses on with a campaign aimed at purging the strategic Sinai Peninsula of insurgents, some inspired by al-Qaeda.

After the Islamist was pushed from power, Egypt declared a state of emergency and enforced a curfew that’s since been eased — all in what has been a largely successful bid to quash the protests led by the Brotherhood and their Islamist allies.

Mursi will face trial in a Cairo criminal court along with 14 Muslim Brotherhood leaders for “inciting violence and killing” in events that occurred near the el-Itihadiya palace in Cairo on Dec. 5, news agency MENA reported, citing Prosecutor Mohamed Hisham.

Leaders Arrested

A Brotherhood call for protests on Aug. 30 fizzled because security authorities prevented demonstrators from rallying in a single location. The group said in an e-mailed statement yesterday that “the era of sleep and rest is over until we take back the revolution.”

Authorities yesterday ordered Sobhi Saleh, another Brotherhood leader, held for 15 days pending investigation after he was arrested in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. Saleh faces allegations including inciting violence, according to the Alexandria prosecutor’s office said in a faxed statement yesterday. In all, more than 1,000 Brotherhood members, including its supreme guide, have been arrested, with some facing charges as serious as murder.

Keeping canal traffic flowing normally became a concern even before Mursi was deposed as the military stepped up security along the waterway months ago.

Canal Authority spokesman Tarek Hassanein said by phone that he didn’t have additional details and Zhang Jiqing, general manager at the executive division of the Beijing-based COSCO, didn’t return two calls outside normal business hours yesterday.

The Suez Canal and SUMED pipeline, as the link between Egypt’s ports of Ain Sukhna on the Red Sea and Sidi Kerir on the Mediterranean is known, together handled 3.8 million barrels a day of crude and products, according to 2011 data cited by the International Energy Agency. Most of that traffic was northbound.

The recent unrest has undercut Egypt’s hopes to rally an economy stunted since longtime leader Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in 2011. It’s also led some key allies, including the U.S. and European Union, to talk about withholding aid.

Early Elections

Egyptian officials have downplayed the criticism as threats and said they have contingency plans. At the same time, officials are pressing ahead with a “road map” announced by the military that sees the country amending the now-suspended constitution and holding elections by early next year.

Interim President Adly Mansour issued a decree yesterday setting up a 50-member committee charged with amending the charter, which would then be voted on in a referendum, presidency spokesman Ehab Badawy told reporters. The Salafi Nour Party will have a representative on the panel, Badawy said, adding that invitations were extended to other Islamist parties, including the Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party. Only Nour responded, he said.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-01/egypt-boosts-suez-security-as-foiled-attack-shows-risks.html

Royal Navy contigency plans to evacuate British tourists from Egypt

Fortuitously, a Royal Navy task force is heading to the region as part of its annual Operation Cougar deployment.

Navy on standby to rescue Britons in Egypt

THE Royal Navy was on standby last night to evacuate British tourists from Egypt as the country teeters on the brink of civil war.

HMS Illustrious and flotilla of warships were placed on high alert to rescue Britons

With up to 40,000 Britons on holiday in Red Sea resorts, the aircraft carrier Illustrious and a flotilla of warships were placed on high alert to rescue them and other UK nationals should the violence escalate.

The move follows a week of bloodshed in which more than 1,000 people have been killed in clashes between supporters of the deposed Muslim Brotherhood regime and the forces of the interim military government.

Senior officers at the Permanent Joint Headquarters of the Armed Forces in Northwood, Middlesex, whose role is to monitor world events, are poised to react if politicians call for military intervention.

Illustrious, the assault ship Bulwark and a fleet of frigates and support ships are heading towards Gibraltar for a series of war games which is also due to take them through the Red Sea.

A top Naval source told the Sunday Express: “The planning team will be looking at all options and making sure we are ready to evacuate British nationals if it comes to that or in a worst-case scenario intervene to rescue UK citizens taken hostage.

“We have a desk officer who will know where we can fly into, who we can liaise with, where the majority of UK passports live and have at least a dozen local people who we can call on to help us.

“As well as tourists, we have British nationals inside Cairo and other areas and this is now very much a waiting game. It is all about the political decision- making process, based on the intelligence information collated at GCHQ. Our role is to be ready.”

The Government is under growing pressure to warn British tourists to stay away from Egypt amid fears they will become ­targets in the violence.

The Foreign Office has advised against travel to Sinai, Cairo and Alexandria but given the green light to popular Red Sea destinations such as Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada.

Tens of thousands of Britons are due to fly there this week.

The bloodshed in Egypt has continued, with more than 1,000 killed in clashes.

The US, France, Russia, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Belgium have all advised their citizens to avoid Egypt. Thailand is preparing to evacuate 2,000 of its nationals.

Last night Britons in Marsa Alam, near Sharm el-Sheikh, were under virtual curfew. Lawrence Aston, 52, from Bromley, Kent, on holiday with his wife and two sons, said: “We would have gone elsewhere if we’d have known what was going to happen.

“The Foreign Office still say it’s OK to come here but I don’t know how much longer that can last.

“The tour operators are toeing a dangerous line as there’s no way of telling if Westerners could become a target or if this could become a civil war.”

Sally Asling told how her hotel in Hurghada had bolstered security after a protest nearby in which one man was reportedly shot dead.

She said: “It is unsettling how quickly things kick off.”

British tourists say they have little choice but to carry on with their trips as they face up to £600 in cancellation fees.

Yesterday travellers arriving at London Heathrow from Cairo described the scramble to get home.

Jamie Griffiths, 41, a music teacher from Swansea, said: “I was so lucky to get out of there. It was chaos at the airport because there were no police there. My taxi driver had to take loads of detours.”

Egyptian-born Fadia Matta, 62, who lives in the UK, said: “The people are crazy. They have burnt a lot of churches. They have stolen a whole museum. It is very sad.”

British Airways is still flying to Cairo but has adjusted its schedules around curfew times imposed by Egyptian authorities.

It is allowing passengers to change destinations.

A spokeswoman said: “We are keeping the situation in Egypt under constant review.”

Last night MPs called for clearer information for travellers heading to Egypt. Conservative Bill Cash said: “People are the best judges of their own safety but I think they need to be warned specifically of the unpredictability of the situation.”

Labour’s Ann Clwyd said: “I would have thought the travel advice would have been beefed up as anything could happen at any time at any place given the extreme situation in the country.”

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/18/gibraltar-reef-protest-flotilla-royal-navy-police

Thieves? Pirates? Terrorists? Owners warned of illegal boarders on Suez Canal transits

Thieves? Pirates? Terrorists? With the current instability in Egypt, and despite assurances to the contrary, this is a worrying prospect.

Owners warned of illegal boarders on Suez Canal transits

Crew members on vessels calling at Egyptian ports have reportedly been approached by mysterious persons seeking to board, referring to themselves only as “businessmen”.

The individuals seek passage on vessels through the Suez Canal, and, it is suspected, to engage in theft, piracy, or other unlawful activities while onboard. Crews transiting the canals and calling at Egyptian ports have been advised to remain vigilant, with continuous deck watch necessary to ensure the safety of vessel and crew.

“A vessel should not allow any unidentified persons to board,” Skuld said in a circular to members. “If persons seek to board the vessel, and they do not possess proper identification / authorisation then the Master should not permit them to come on board. In case of concern or threats, the Master should seek to alert local authorities and also the Club’s correspondents for further immediate assistance.”

http://www.seatrade-global.com/news/middle-east-africa/owners-warned-of-illegal-boarders-on-suez-canal-transits-skuld.html

No plans for US Marines to intervene in Egypt

“There hasn’t been an official tasking.”

Read into that what you will.

Unofficially? Obviously. It’s called a contingency. But a single MEU still wouldn’t “intervene” in a civil war. It may have some utility in support of evacuation of US citizens, however.

No Plans for U.S. Marines Near Egypt to Intervene in Conflict

USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), left, leads the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) and the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD-17) on June 16, 2013. US Navy Photo

Two amphibious warships in the Red Sea have not been given orders to respond to the growing unrest in Egypt, Navy and Marine Corps officials told USNI News on Friday.

“There hasn’t been an official tasking,” Marine Capt. Eric Flanagan at the Pentagon told USNI News.

“They’re not getting ready to go into Egypt.”

On Thursday, Reuters quoted Marine Corps commandant Gen. James Amos saying the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) were on station in case the situation devolved.

“Egypt is (in) a crisis right now,” Marine Corps Commandant General James Amos told the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank. “When that happens, what we owe the senior leadership of our nation are some options.”

Currently the amphibious helicopter carrier USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) and the USS San Antonio (LPD-17) are in the Red Sea following the June Eager Lion exercise between the U.S. and Jordan. The third ship in the ARG — USS Carter Hall (LSD-50 — is near the 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain.

“The point that he was making [is that] three navy ships that have the ability to move off the coast and be ready for action,” Flanagan said.A Navy official confirmed to USNI News that the ARG has not received new tasking to respond to the Egyptian crisis.

The ARG is embarked with about 2,200 Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26 MEU) from Camp Lejeune, N.C. The ships departed in March for operations in the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

http://news.usni.org/2013/07/12/no-plans-for-u-s-marines-near-egypt-to-intervene-in-conflict