WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration on Friday warned Americans against all but essential travel to Egypt and moved to reduce the official U.S. presence in the country amid fears of widespread unrest.
Just hours after Egyptian officials said an American had been killed in clashes between government supporters and opponents in the city of Alexandria, the State Department said Americans should defer nonessential travel to Egypt, citing the uncertain security situation. It also said it would allow some nonessential staff and the families of personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to leave Egypt until conditions improve.
“Political unrest, which intensified prior to the constitutional referendum in December 2012 and the anniversary in 2013 of Egypt’s 25th January Revolution, is likely to continue in the near future due to unrest focused on the first anniversary of the president’s assumption of office,” it said. “Demonstrations have, on occasion, degenerated into violent clashes between police and protesters, resulting in deaths, injuries and extensive property damage.”
“Participants have thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails and security forces have used tear gas and other crowd control measures against demonstrators. There are numerous reports of the use of firearms as well,” it said.
The department added that it had authorized the departure of “a limited number of nonemergency personnel” in addition to family members.
That move doesn’t require anyone to depart but encourages them to go by allowing them to do so at government expense. Officials said dependents and nonessential staff could be ordered to leave if the situation deteriorates.
The U.S. is deeply concerned by developments in Egypt, where clashes have broken out ahead of planned mass protests against the government headed by Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. At least six Egyptians have been killed in days of clashes ahead of nationwide protests Sunday demanding Morsi’s removal.
On Friday, an American was killed Alexandria while photographing battles between supporters and opponents of Morsi, according to security and medical officials.
The State Department’s previous travel alert for Egypt, released on May 15, alerted Americans to the continuing possibility of political and social unrest. It urged them to keep abreast of local security conditions and exercise vigilance but did not warn them against any travel to the country.