Video Shows Rocket Attack on Suez Canal Ship, Group Says

Egyptian jihadi group claims responsibility, canal officials shrug off threat.

ByLee Ferran
September 06, 2013, 10:30 AM

Sept. 6, 2013 — -- The shaky video begins as the cameraman stands in a grassy patch allegedly on the banks of Egypt's famed Suez Canal while a massive container ship lumbers by. As the camera turns, two men run into the frame, each carrying a rocket propelled grenade launcher, their faces blurred.

The men take positions on either side of the cameraman, pause briefly to aim and then fire their explosives in turn at the slow-moving ship. With a bang the first round sounds like it finds its mark, but the video is too shaky to tell. The second, launched after one of the men appears to say "Allahu akbar," or "God is great," causes a similar crackling and appears to cause a small explosion on the side of the ship.

The men then scamper away and the great ship continues on, with little visible damage, as the video ends. The video had been edited to add a black flag often associated with jihadist groups in the corner.

The footage, uploaded to YouTube Wednesday, purportedly shows what canal officials called a "terrorist act" by an Egyptian extremist group on the Panamanian-flagged container ship COSCO Asia on Saturday, Aug. 31. ABC News has been unable to verify the YouTube video and a U.S. official could only say U.S. intelligence was aware of media reports on the subject.

Despite the dramatic video, canal officials said in a statement posted on their website the same day as the attack that it "completely failed with no damage, whatsoever, either to the ship or its cargo of containers."

"The situation was dealt with in a very decisive manner by the Egyptian armed forces, and the vessel resumed its trip safely to the port of destination, while Suez Canal navigation is back to normal and ship traffic is quite regular," the statement said. Reuters reported that Egyptian security had rounded up three men allegedly involved in the attack.

However, the attack was hailed as a success by the al-Furqan Brigades, the group that went online to take responsibility for the assault, saying it targeted the Suez Canal because of its importance as a trade route and because it "has become the safe way for the Crusader aircraft carriers to cross in to assault Muslims."

In mid-August the Navy announced the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group – which includes the aircraft carrier the USS Harry S. Truman – "executed a safe and professional transit through the Suez Canal" on its way from the Mediterranean to the Arabian Sea.

The jihadist group also appeared to criticize Egypt's recent, violent-stricken push for democracy, saying, "The way to make God's word superior is that of ammunition boxes, not ballot boxes."

"Your brothers have marched on the path of democracy and elections and filled their hearts with love for the idol of 'peacefulnees' and 'democracy.' They gave legitimacy to ballot boxes, not to God, His messenger, and the believers," the group's statement said.

The al-Furqan Brigades appears to be a newly-formed jihadist group in Egypt and very little has been publicly written about them or their potential alliances with other, larger groups. The U.S. official told ABC News that in the turmoil in that country, especially in pockets that make up militant havens in the Sinai, extremist groups appear and disappear often, realigning with others or simply changing their name frequently.

According to statistics posted on the Suez Canal's website, anywhere from 16,000 to 22,000 ships pass through the 118-mile canal every year. In 2012, 17,225 ships went through, approximately 47 ships per day.

The U.S. official said the Suez Canal, as important as it is to the global economy, is naturally a "persistent target" for potential terror plots, a sentiment confirmed by the al-Furqan Brigades' statement.

"We will target it again whenever we want… It is the lifeblood of trade for the states of infidelity and oppression," the group said. "The worst is yet to come."

The COSCO Asia was apparently undeterred by the assault and has continued its journey to Hamburg, Germany. It is, as of this report, off the northern coast of Spain, according to online vessel trackers. Representatives for COSCO did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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