Egyptian authorities have arrested 13 Muslim Brotherhood members on suspicion of planting bombs around the Suez Canal to disrupt shipping, security sources said on Monday.
The men formed a 13-member cell, which included a Suez Canal Authority employee. Authorities have ordered the accused terrorists be detained for 15 days claiming they planted bombs in areas such as sanitation and electricity facilities and on public beaches.
The Suez Canal is the primary shipping route between Europe and Asia with about 18,000 ships passing through each year, which amounts to about 10% of the global maritime trade. The canal is currently in an $8 billion expansion project that is expected to be completed by August 6th .
The canal operations generate about $5 billion per year for the Egyptian government. The expanded canal will allow for two-way traffic of larger ships, which is expected to increase revenues to $15 billion by 2023. Egyptian authorites said that terrorist attacks against the could severely impeded Egypt’s economic development and it intends to increase security measures.
Egyptian government has been escalating its rhetoric against the Muslin Brotherhood, which is entrenched in Egypt’s culture and society. Last week, the country’s top prosecuter was assassinated. The Muslim Brotherhood is a Pan-Islamic group and one of the largest groups in the country. But, in 2014, the government officially declared the Muslin Brotherhood a terrorist group.
President Mohamed Mursi was a Muslin Brotherhood member and his regime was toppled by the army in 2013. Meanwhile, the Muslin Brotherhood states that it is committed to peaceful activism in order to reverse what it deems a military coup of Mursi’s governemnt. Former army chief, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whom was responsible in Mursi’s ouster is now Egypt’s elected president.
The Egyptian army cracked down on Mursi's supporters after his ouster, which ended up with hundreds being killed in the streets aof Cairo while arresting thousands more. Last week, Egyptian security forces stormed an apartment in a western Cairo suburb and killed nine men who they claimed were armed and considered terrorists against the state.
Among the dead was a prominent lawyer for the Muslin Brotherhood and a former Egyptian lawmaker. The group denies that the nine men were armed and claimed they were simply holding an organizational meeting.
Egypt does not distinguish between the Muslin Brotherhood and other groups such as Islamic State, which has an affiliate in Sinai that has killed hundreds of soldiers and police since Mursi's fall.