US moves to protect its citizens amid tensions in Egypt
US Embassy evacuates 45 families of its diplomats in Egypt
Ahram Online, Saturday 29 Jun 2013
Protesters destroy an American flag pulled down from the U.S. embassy in Cairo, in protests against US-made film insulting Prophet Mohamed, September 2012 (Photo: Reuters)
US Embassy in Cairo has evacuated 45 families of its diplomats on Saturday to Germany en route to the US amid tensions rising ahead of mass anti-government protests in Egypt.
The US State Department had warned Americans on Saturday against all but essential travel to Egypt and moved to reduce the official US presence in the country.
A US citizen was killed in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria on Friday during clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi, bringing the city's total death toll on Friday to two.
The victim, who died from a stab-wound to the chest, has been identified to be 21-year-old Andrew Pochter, a student at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.
Amin Ezz El-Din, head of Alexandria's security directorate, said that Pochter had been taking pictures with his mobile phone near one of the offices of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which President Morsi hails, when he was attacked by unknown assailants.
The young American was also an intern at Amideast, a non-profit organization that focuses on development activities in the Middle East and North Africa. Pochter's family issued a statement after its son's death saying that Pochter was in Alexandria for the summer to teach English to young Egyptian children.
“He was looking forward to returning to Kenyon College for his junior year and to spending his spring semester in Jordan,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, CNN reported on Saturday that US marines stationed in southern Europe are on alert, ready to leave for Egypt "to protect the U.S. Embassy and American government personnel and citizens if violence broke out against Americans."
The report says that about 200 combat capable marines in Sigonella, Italy and Moron in Spain would be ready to be airborne within an hour of getting deployment orders.
On Tuesday, the US Embassy, located near Cairo's central Tahrir Square, issued a statement saying it will close to the public on 30 June "in anticipation of demonstrations that may turn violent."
The embassy warned its personnel against attending protests on 30 June and said Americans were advised to "maintain a low profile and restrict movement" to their immediate areas from 28 June.
In anti-government protests around Egypt on Friday anti-American feeling was seen. In Tahrir, protesters put up a banner showing the image of US President Barack Obama saying “Obama funds terrorism”.
Similarly, hundreds of anti-Morsi protesters took to the streets in Suez city holding banners with slogans against President Mohamed Morsi and US ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson, reported Ahram Arabic.
The US embassy in Cairo was the site of fierce clashes last September during protests against a US-made film that insulted Prophet Mohamed and Islam. The clashes left at least two dead and over 220 injured.
Egypt is anticipating nationwide protests on Sunday aimed at forcing Morsi to step down and call for early presidential elections. Already protesters are holding sit-ins in Cairo's central Tahrir Square and Ittihadeya presidential palace in Heliopolis. Thousands went out in protests on Friday in preparation of Sunday's demonstration.
In response, the president's supporters, mainly of Islamist groups, are holding an "open-ended demonstration" spearheaded by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, from which Morsi hails, until the 30 June protests are over.
Tensions have been building between the president's supporters and opponents. Clashes broke out in several governorates over the past week leaving at least five dead, including two in Mediterranean city of Alexandria on Friday's protests there.