World Bulletin / News Desk
Egyptian authorities have beefed up security along the Suez Canal, erecting a checkpoint every 20 kilometers, increasing mobile security patrols, installing more security cameras and deploying army helicopters to monitor the strategic waterway.
These are the most salient features of new, unprecedented security measures being adopted around the Suez Canal, the international waterway which links the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, informed security sources told Anadolu Agency.
The measures come hard on the heels of an announcement by Egyptian authorities that they had foiled "a terrorist attack targeting a transiting foreign ship."
In a Saturday statement, Suez Canal Authority (SCA) Chairman Mohab Mamish said that "a terrorist made a botched attempt to sabotage traffic through the canal by targeting the Cosco Asia ship, which flew the Panamanian flag."
"Checkpoints manned by police and personnel from other security agencies have been placed every 20 kilometers along the 193-kilometer waterway," security sources said.
"Patrols have also been intensified," they added.
The sources went on to say that Egyptian army helicopters were routinely patrolling the skies over the Suez province at the canal's southern entrance to secure the international waterway.
Military sources in Suez spoke of close cooperation between the Egyptian military and the Arab tribes that inhabit the Sinai Peninsula on the canal's eastern bank.
Despite the botched attack, the SCA announced on Sunday that 51 ships had crossed the canal, representing a 10-percent increase in average daily canal traffic.
A source said that the SCA would have to closely monitor canal traffic during coming weeks to determine whether the waterway would be affected by the foiled attack.
Most of the 51 ships had entered the canal last week, according to the SCA.
'Minor' attacks not ruled out
Military sources and security experts on Monday insisted that Egyptian authorities were fully capable of securing the Suez Canal, a vital commercial waterway and important source of foreign currency for Egypt, without ruling out the possibility of "minor" attacks in the days ahead.
"The security system protecting the Suez Canal is one of the best in the Middle East and is fully capable of preventing any potential terrorist attacks on the international waterway," military expert Ahmed Ragae told Anadolu Agency.
He said the Egyptian Navy, border guards and regular army troops were cooperating to secure the canal, but did not rule out the possibility of limited attacks.
"I expect to see limited and ineffective attacks that aim only to raise doubts about the canal among western countries," Ragae said.
"The Suez Canal and transiting ships are totally secure," Gen. Osama Askar, commander of the Third Egyptian Army, one of the main divisions of Egypt's armed forces, said in a Monday press statement.
Most ships require between three and four days to cross the canal, meaning that the ramifications of the botched attack on traffic would become clearer in the days ahead.
The SCA announced in July that canal traffic had fallen by 6.6 percent during the first half of 2013 compared with the corresponding period the previous year.
Suez Canal revenues dropped 4 percent to $2.43 billion during the first half of this year, compared with the corresponding period last year when they stood at some $2.53 billion.