Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egyptian authorities have arrested 13 members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group on suspicion of carrying out a terrorist attack on the Suez Canal, security sources said on Monday.
The 13, who included an employee of the Suez Canal Authority, planted bombs near the canal in order to disrupt shipping, the sources said. Some of the bombs were placed in electricity and sanitation facilities nearby the canal, a major global trade route and vital source of foreign currency for Egypt.
This comes a month before Egypt hopes to open a new expansion of the thoroughfare, which includes a new canal allowing for two-way traffic and reduced waiting hours for ships crossing through.
Egypt has been rocked by terror attacks since July 2013, when the army ousted former president and senior Brotherhood figure Mohamed Mursi after mass protests against his one-year rule.
Then-army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, now the country’s president, and his government say the Muslim Brotherhood has been responsible for the attacks. The group is now banned in Egypt and has been designated a terrorist organization by the government.
In the last week militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have targeted the North Sinai region, leading the Egyptian Air Force to begin a series of airstrikes against the group, which calls itself Sinai Province.
An informed security source told Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday over 200 militants have been killed in army operations in Sinai over the last week.
The source said many of the militants were of foreign origin. “Initial results indicate the presence of individuals from Turkey, Palestine, and Syria among them.”
Egypt’s top judicial official, prosecutor-general Hisham Barakat, was killed in a car bomb that targeted his motorcade in central Cairo two days before last week’s attacks in North Sinai.
Barakat was appointed as prosecutor-general only days after the toppling of Mursi and quickly became known among political and judicial circles as the “fiercest counter-terrorism warrior in Egypt.”
He was in charge of overseeing the prosecution of thousands of Islamists, including Mursi.
The attack on Barakat coincided with planned celebrations to mark the second anniversary of the June 30 protests which helped topple Mursi.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, military analyst Mahmoud Khalaf said Egypt’s intelligence service has uncovered evidence regarding the involvement of other countries in the attacks.
“Since the latest wave of terror attacks began with the assassination of late prosecutor-general Hisham Barakat, the president has received information relating to a plan to ruin the Egyptian people’s celebrations of the anniversary of June 30 , as well as ruining the opening of the [new] Suez Canal—attempts to send a general message to the world that Egypt is not stable,” Khalaf said.
“What has happened lately is a conspiracy very obviously involving the Turkish intelligence services, as well as the participation of Qatar,” he added.