Islamic State-linked militants commandeered an Egyptian navy missile boat last month as part of a plan to attack Israeli vessels in the Mediterranean Sea, Israel’s Channel 2 News reported Monday night.
Though the hijacking occurred on Nov. 12 near the northern end of the Suez Canal, details are only now emerging about the drama that ensued on the high seas.
Channel 2 quoted an Egyptian investigation that suggested that the ship’s commander may have been involved in the plot that began by staging an accident.
Naval officials became suspicious when the ship stopped answering communications and deployed other vessels to pursue the hijacked boat.
After a gun battle, the Egyptian navy regained control of the ship.
The Times of Israel reported that shortly after the incident, the Egyptian navy said that one of its ships had been the target of a terrorist attack in which eight naval personnel were killed and five were injured. It said 32 attackers were arrested, but until the Monday report, there had been no indication that a navy ship had been successfully commandeered and that the Islamic State was involved.
The militants had planned to hijack an Israeli ship and hold its crew hostage as leverage for Israel releasing Palestinian prisoners, the Jerusalem Post reported, citing Arabic media.
“The Egyptian security forces are looking into the possibility that a foreign country gave logistical assistance to the Islamic State militants,” said an Egyptian military source quoted in the Jerusalem Post.
Last month, the Sinai-based terrorist group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis pledged its loyalty to the Islamic State group, raising concern that the Islamic State, whose goal is to establish a caliphate, was spreading beyond the territories it controls in Iraq and Syria.
In a statement first reported by Reuters, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis said, “After entrusting God we decided to swear allegiance to the emir of the faithful Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, caliph of the Muslims in Syria and Iraq and in other countries.”