Security authorities in Damietta released four fishermen Sunday, after completing investigations regarding the November attack on a navy patrol, Hossam Khalil president of a cooperative society for fishermen in Damietta confirmed Wednesday.
The group of fishermen is the last of 32 who were arrested following the incident, all of whom were from Ezbet El-Borg city in Damietta. They were on board four boats during the exchange of fire, an informed fisherman previously told Daily News Egypt.
The release occurred over four phases: the first was a group of 15, followed by 10, then three, followed by the final group of four. The fishermen’s association has been making efforts to provide assistance for the detained fishermen.
“The authorities’ response was effective and the fishermen have been promised compensation for the losses during the attack,” Khalil said.
Khalil said that the fishermen’s presence at the time of the incident was a coincidence, as the military mistakenly targeted them, destroying four of their boats. “One boat sank, one burnt down and the two others were severely destroyed and fishing equipment damaged,” Khalil said.
The attack took place on 12 November, 40 miles north of the port of Damietta, when gunmen opened fire on the navy vessel. Eight navy personnel went missing as a result of the attack, according to the military spokesperson.
Security expert Hossam Sweilam had told Daily News Egypt that 13 army personnel were confronted by more than 60 militants from other boats.
Meanwhile, Brigadier General Khaled Okasha, head of the Center for Security Studies, maintained that any news regarding the attack was only premises without evidence, including possible sea penetration by outside militants.
Lebanese news website Al-Modon published a story two days after the attack, suggesting that the patrol commander Ahmed Amer had conspired with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Sham (ISIS). It claimed he had helped five of their members hide on board vessel in order to seize the boat on the day of the attack.
Al-Modon attributed the information to unnamed sources allegedly in the Port Said navy, anonymous alleged jihadists’ online accounts. It also based its story on a supposed video release by a man named Abou Amina Al-Ansary, believed to be a media spokesperson for ISIS.
The military has not officially announced any updates on the incident. The fate of the eight missing sailors also remains unknown.