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Travel Alert: Political Violence in Egypt, 02/21/2014

On February 21, 2014, the U.S. Department of State announced the following message:

Egypt mapThe U.S. Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the risks of traveling to Egypt due to continuing political and social unrest. This Travel Alert supersedes the Travel Alert issued on January 30, 2014, and will expire on May 22, 2014.

Based on an assessment of the security situation in Egypt, the Department of State lifted the ordered departure status for U.S. Embassy personnel on November 6, 2013. The State Department lifted ordered departure status for U.S. Consulate General Alexandria on December 16, 2013. However, Consulate General personnel are based out of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo while required facility security upgrades are made. Political unrest, which intensified after the July 2013 change of government, is likely to continue in the near future. Demonstrations have on numerous occasions resulted in violent clashes between security forces and protesters and between protesters supporting rival factions, some of which have resulted in deaths and injuries to those involved and in property damage. Participants have generally thrown rocks, and Molotov cocktails, with security forces responding with tear gas.

However, police on occasion have used live ammunition as a crowd control measure and in response to live ammunition used by demonstrators against police. Most violent protests have occurred in major metropolitan areas, including Cairo and its suburbs, Alexandria, and Port Said. Gender-based violence in and around protest areas, where women have been the targets of sexual assault, poses an ongoing concern. There has been a recent and notable increase in the use of explosive devices to target police or other government institutions or individuals, which have resulted in casualties and damage to infrastructure.

Additionally, police officers have frequently been the targets of drive-by shootings that endanger bystanders as well.The security situation in North Sinai, including the major east-west coastal highway and the towns of El Arish, Shaykh Zuwayd, El Gorah and Rafah, has been marked by ongoing violent attacks on Egyptian security personnel and by continuing and frequently intense security operations against the sources of violence.

The U.S. Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid travel to North Sinai. The security situation in most tourist centers, including Luxor, Aswan, the Luxor-Aswan Nile cruise routes, and Red Sea/Southern Sinai resorts such as Hurghada and Sharm el Sheikh remains calm. However, on February 16, a bomb was detonated on a tourist bus, killing four people in Taba, a Sinai resort near the Israeli border. U.S. citizens should remain alert to local security developments.

The U.S. Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid all demonstrations in Egypt, as even peaceful ones can quickly become violent, and a foreigner could become a target of harassment or worse. On June 28, 2013, a U.S. citizen was killed during a demonstration in Alexandria. U.S. citizens have also been arrested and deported for proximity to demonstrations and for taking pictures of demonstrations, police and military.

Foreign journalists, credentialed or not, have also been increasingly targeted by both security forces and Egyptian citizens while attempting to cover demonstrations or gain access to restricted areas. Several have been detained for prolonged periods as a result of their activities, and others have been subjected to verbal or physical assault by citizens suspicious about the reason for their presence.

Because of the proximity of the U.S. Embassy to Tahrir Square and other demonstration locations in Cairo, the U.S. Embassy has sometimes been closed to the public on short notice due to violent protests. The Embassy will notify U.S. citizens as quickly as possible of any closing and the types of emergency consular services that will be available. Should security forces block off the area around the U.S. Embassy during demonstrations, U.S. citizens should contact the American Citizens Services section before attempting to come to the U.S. Embassy during that time. U.S. citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to carry identification and, if moving about alone, a cell phone or other means of communication that works in Egypt.

Depending on the current security situation, the U.S. Embassy may also restrict the movements of its employees and their families within Cairo itself.

Remain alert to local security developments and be vigilant regarding your personal security; know the locations of police and fire stations, hospitals, and the U.S. Embassy. Unless otherwise indicated in a public announcement, the U.S. Embassy is open for all routine American Citizens Services by appointment. U.S. citizens needing emergency assistance do not need an appointment.

Visit the Embassy website to check the latest changes to Embassy hours or services. U.S. citizens with routine phone inquiries may call the Embassy's American Citizens Services section at 2797-2301, Sunday to Thursday from 9:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. For emergencies after business hours and on weekends and holidays, U.S. citizens can contact the Embassy Duty Officer via the Embassy switchboard on 2797-3300.

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