Members of the Islamic State’s Sinai branch (known as Wilayat al-Sina, and formerly as Ansar Bait al-Maqdis) have claimed responsibility for an attack on a patrol boat off the Egyptian Coast Guard. The attack, which involved an anti-tank missile, happened on the 16 July, one mile off the coast of Sinai, close to the Gaza strip.
The Egyptian vessel, a Swiftship, 26 meter type patrol boat, had located a group of jihadists close to the coastline and opened fire. To the surprise of the crew the jihadists responded with an anti-tank missile.
The boat was hit by the missile and several members of the crew were injured, but no fatalities were reported by the Egyptian military. After the incident two boats approached the patrol boat and tried to help the crew extinguish the fire, while a third boat came and towed the damaged vessel away.
The missile the jihadists used may be a Russian made 9M133 Kornet (NATO: AT-14 Spriggan). ISIS is known to use this type of missile in Syria and Libya. The missiles in Libya were stolen from Gaddafi’s army depots when the first civil war ended with the defeat of the government forces.
After the end of the first Libyan civil war, large quantities of weapons and ammunition were sold on the black market and several weapon systems were found in Sinai by the Egyptian military and security forces during their fight with Wilayat al-Sina, and at least six more terrorist Islamist organisations.
If such a highly sophisticated weapon as the 9M133 Kornet fell into the hands of extremist Islamists in Sinai, this probably happened because neither the Egyptian, nor any other authorities, managed to control the flow of stolen weapons from Libya.
What the Egyptian authorities should examine now is how the jihadists were trained to set, locate, truck, and accurately target the patrol boat while they were under fire. It is the first time that members of a terrorist organisation in Sinai have used anti-tank missiles against a patrol vessel.
Although some reports say that the Egyptian vessel was moored to a buoy off the coast of Sinai, the fact that the jihadists managed to complete the attack successfully while they were under fire, shows the high standard of their training.
The Russian made 9M133 Kornet is a laser beam riding guided missile with a range of 5.5-8km and a 7kg high explosive anti-tank warhead.
If the missile that hit the Egyptian vessel was in fact a 9M133 Kornet, then the insurgency in Sinai seems to be becoming a greater challenge for the Egyptian Army. The jihadists appear to have sophisticated weapons and training, meaning that that they can undertake bold operations against the Egyptian Armed Forces and possibly against commercial targets such as boats that cross the Suez Canal.
Last Autumn militants who were probably members of Wilayat al-Sina attacked a Egyptian Navy vessel off the port of Damietta using fishing boats, while in September 2013 jihadists attacked a commercial ship in the Suez Canal with rocket propelled grenades.