Byzantine fleet sacked and destroyed the undefended port city of Damietta in Abbasid-ruled Egypt
Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
On May 22, 853 AD, a Byzantine fleet sacked and destroyed the undefended port city of Damietta in Abbasid-ruled Egypt, killing hundreds of people, abducting at least 600 Arab and Coptic Christian women, and seizing large quantities of weapons and supplies intended for the Muslim Emirate of the island of Crete, while the garrison was absent, attending a feast in the capital Fustat.
The Christian Greek fleet of 85 ships and 5,000 ruthless pirates, led by a turncoat Arab admiral named "Ibn Qatuna", then sailed east and attacked the fortress of Ushtun, where the many artillery and siege engines were burned. According to Muslim historians, the surprise raid, while the self-styled caliphs in Baghdad were sunk in pleasures and oppression of the people, especially the followers of the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt, jolted the conscience of the Egyptian people to the urgent need of strengthening of maritime defences. As a result ships were constructed, new crews conscripted, and Damietta and other coastal sites fortified. This marked the birth of the Egyptian navy, which reached its peak later under the Ismaili Shi’ite Muslim Fatemid dynasty.