US arms shipment heading to Asia not Egypt, says Egyptian military attaché

Ahram Online, MENA, AFP, Friday 16 Mar 2012

General Mohamed El-Koshky, the Egyptian military attaché in Washington refutes recent Amnesty allegations that Egypt was expecting a new US arms shipment; Amnesty says US Navy must clarify the ship destination

Central Security Forces
Egypt's Central Security Forces usually use US-made teargas canisters while confronting protesters (Photo: Reuters)

The Egyptian military attaché in Washington, General Mohamed El-Koshky, on Friday slammed allegations made by non-governmental organisation Amnesty International that a cargo ship carrying weapons and explosives is currently en route from the US to Egypt. In a press statement to MENA news agency, El-Koshky said the ship was actually heading to an Asian country.

El-Koshky described Amnesty’s claims as “completely baseless” and made with the intention to shake the already deteriorated security status in Egypt. "The ship has nothing to do with Egypt at all," he added.

"These weapons are being shipped to an Asian country, and not to Egypt. It should pass through the Suez Canal on its way to its destination," he explained. "The shipping agent of this cargo is Dutch, and we have never dealt with a Dutch agent to instigate the transportation of weapons.”

El-Koshky went on to criticise the human rights group itself, saying that if the organisation inadvertently made a mistake, it should immediately retract the statement.

“[Amnesty] is a reputable organisation that is involved in humanitarian activates and not in increasing tensions,” El-Koshky added, “Egypt has long suffered inflammatory claims that are aimed at stirring up hatred among Egyptians.”

The London-based organisation had published a press statement on Thursday calling a halt to the “ship of shame”, as the dangerous cargo, the group said, may be used to commit human rights violations against civilians in Egypt. This follows the deaths of hundreds of Egyptian protesters killed during confrontations with soldiers and police since the military assumed power on 11 February, 2011.

In a subsequent statement made Friday, Amnesty admitted that the US Navy said that the shipment would not be offloaded in Egypt but added that the US failed to confirm its final destination.

Amnesty says the Dutch-flagged vessel, MV Schippersgracht, which left the US Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point (MOTSU), is "carrying a class of dangerous goods that covers cartridges for weapons, fuses and other ammunition" and is headed to Egypt's Port Said. The coastal city lies at the northern end of the Suez Canal which leads to the Red Sea, a route often used to reach countries that receive weapons from America.

"Amnesty International is urging US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to clarify who is the final recipient of the latest cargo," their statement read.

It also demanded assurances that arms shipments would not be sent to countries that might use them to commit human rights violations.

Egyptian protesters have repeatedly taken to the streets to demand political change, including the ouster of the ruling military council which took power when former president Hosni Mubarak quit in the face of a popular uprising early last year.

Dozens have been killed in clashes with the military and police since October last year.

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