A tanker ship sails through the Suez Canal near the port city of Ismailia in Egypt. A container ship in the Suez Canal was the target of a failed "terrorist" attack on August 31.

A tanker ship sails through the Suez Canal near the port city of Ismailia in Egypt. A container ship in the Suez Canal was the target of a failed "terrorist" attack on August 31. Photo: AFP

Cairo: Egyptian authorities moved to bolster security along the Suez Canal after a foiled attack on a container ship traversing the waterway that handles about 8 per cent of world trade spotlighted new threats confronting officials after president Mohamed Mursi's overthrow.

The failed attack on the Panama-registered Cosco Asia didn't damage the ship or its cargo, Suez Canal Authority head Mohab Mamish said on Sunday.

The military dealt "decisively" with the attempt, he said, without giving details.

A US guided missile destroyer sails through the Suez Canal in 2009.

A US guided missile destroyer sails through the Suez Canal in 2009. Photo: AFP

The maritime incident underscored the threats in the country as the military-backed government pursues an offensive against the Muslim Brotherhood and militants following the July 3 coup that ousted Dr Mursi.

More than 1000 people have died, most of them supporters of the toppled Islamist leader who were killed in a single week in August.

"Events like this increase the confusion and cause international embarrassment," said Adel Soliman, head of the private Strategic Dialogue Forum research institute.

Egypt's deposed President Mohamed Mursi.

Egypt's deposed President Mohamed Mursi. Photo: Reuters

Authorities are already grappling with quashing the Brotherhood while the military presses on with a campaign aimed at purging the strategic Sinai Peninsula of insurgents, some inspired by al-Qaeda.

After the Islamist government was pushed from power, Egypt declared a state of emergency and enforced a curfew in what has been a largely successful bid to quash the protests led by the Brotherhood and their Islamist allies.

Dr Mursi will face trial in a Cairo criminal court along with 14 Muslim Brotherhood leaders for "inciting violence and killing" near the Itihadiya presidential palace in Cairo on December 5, state news agency MENA reported.

On the night in question, Brotherhood leaders, worried that the army and police had refused to protect the presidential palace from protesters, summoned their civilian supporters to do the job. A night-long street fight ensued.

The Islamists were accused of abuses including detaining, interrogating and beating dozens of their opponents.

Human rights advocates were especially troubled by statements Dr Mursi made afterward, in which he cited confessions made by the detainees as proof that they were paid to protest against him.

In a statement on Sunday, chief prosecutor Hesham Barakat said two of the president's aides called on supporters that night to defend the palace, after the Republican Guard and the police refused to come to Dr Mursi's aid, in order "to protect the lives of the protesters."

According to the statement, senior Brotherhood leaders including Essam el-Erian "incited the forcible dispersal of the sit-in." Dr Mursi was charged with "inciting his supporters and aides to commit the crimes of premeditated murder and to use violence and thuggery to impose their power."

Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat said that Dr Mursi's supporters killed a journalist, al-Hussein Abu Deif. But his statement made no mention of at least eight other people, all supporters of Dr Mursi, who were killed that night, nor any charges against the perpetrators of those killings. No trial date was announced.

A Brotherhood call for protests on Friday fizzled because security authorities prevented demonstrators from rallying in a single location. The group said in an emailed statement yesterday that "the era of sleep and rest is over until we take back the revolution."

Authorities on Sunday ordered Sobhi Saleh, another Brotherhood leader, held for 15 days pending investigation after he was arrested in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. In all, more than 1000 Brotherhood members, including its supreme guide Mohammed Badie, have been arrested.

Keeping Suez Canal traffic flowing normally became a concern even before Dr Mursi was deposed.

The Suez Canal and SUMED pipeline, as the link between Egypt's ports of Ain Sukhna on the Red Sea and Sidi Kerir on the Mediterranean is known, together handle 3.8 million barrels a day of crude and products, according to 2011 data cited by the International Energy Agency.

The recent unrest has undercut Egypt's hopes to rally an economy stunted since longtime leader Hosni Mubarak's ouster in 2011. It's also led some key allies, including the US and European Union, to talk about withholding aid.

Egyptian officials have downplayed the criticism as threats and said they have contingency plans. At the same time, officials are pressing ahead with a "road map" announced by the military that sees the country amending the now-suspended constitution and holding elections by early next year.

Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour issued a decree on Sunday setting up a 50-member committee charged with amending the currently suspended constitution, which would then be voted on in a referendum.

The Islamist Nour Party will have a representative on the panel, presidential spokesman Ehab Badawy said, adding that invitations were extended to other Islamist parties, including the Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party. Only the Nour Party responded, he said.

Bloomberg, New York Times