Tag Archives: US Embassy Cairo

US Embassy Cairo FSN Ahmed Alaiba Detained Since 1/25–State Dept Still Seeking “Clarity”

❊ If you want to help keep us around, see Help Diplopundit Continue the Chase—Crowdfunding for 2014 via RocketHub ❊

– Domani Spero

Cairo Post reported on February 11 that Egyptian National Security arrested a local employee on Jan. 25 who works for the U.S. embassy in Cairo.  On February 12, NYT’s David Kirkpatrick has additional details:

Security forces have detained an Egyptian employee of the United States Embassy who worked as a liaison to the Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptian news reports said Wednesday, stirring fears of pressure on Western diplomats who communicate with the Islamist opposition.

Embassy officials said the employee, Ahmed Alaiba, was detained on Jan. 25, the third anniversary of the Arab Spring uprising here, and he has been held without charges since then.
[...]
An Egyptian government official briefed on the case said Mr. Alaiba was under investigation for both participating in an illegal demonstration and “communicating with an outlawed group.”
[...]
Mr. Alaiba, an Egyptian citizen, has no diplomatic immunities. But some Western diplomats said that the leaks to the Egyptian news media about his arrest appeared to convey a message to them as well. Many diplomats were already wrestling with fears of possible retribution from the military-backed government if they continued meeting with Brotherhood officials as they did before the takeover.

Questions about Mr. Alaiba’s arrest made it to the State Department’s Daily Press Briefing with Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf. This FSN has been detained since January 25. Besides repeating what has already been reported in the news media, Ms. Harf could only promise to “see if we have more clarity on this.” Eighteen days after the embassy employee was detained, Ms. Harf could not even say what was this employee’s job at the embassy?!

Typically, the local employees who do work overseas like Mr. Alaiba’s are political assistants or political specialists. These are fairly common jobs in diplomatic missions.  We do want to know what the former DCM, now  Chargé d’Affaires Markc Sievers is doing about the detention of a member of his embassy’s staff?  Yes, he’s Egyptian, and a local employee, and he’s one of ours.  If uncorrected, this could become a dangerous precedent. Anyone who works for the U.S. government in Egypt who talks to MB officials or supporters or other opposition figures could just be thrown into jail without charges or some spurious ones.

In some dark corners of the net, the conspiracy theorists are already busy. This is apparently proof of President Obama’s secret support for the Muslim Brotherhood.  Which just shows how little people know about what our official representatives do overseas.  Our diplomats and local employees talk to host country governments and opposition parties/figures around the globe.  What they learn help inform the decisions that our government makes.  This happens whether there’s a Democrat or a Republican in the White House. Some of the folks our officials talk to are not very nice, some are corrupt, some would not even think twice about stabbing us in the back. But that’s the world we lived in.  To expect that our government officials should only talk to the government in power is idiotic, that gives us only half the story. It also makes it impossible for our people to do substantial work when the levers of power change hands.  So, do think about that when you hear about these nutty stuff.

Now, can we please have somebody at the podium who wears a hat or sash that says, “Clarity is my name” whether it snows or not?

Excerpt below from the greatest mid-day show in town:

QUESTION: I wanted to start by asking about the Embassy employee in Cairo who was arrested for his liaison with the Muslim Brotherhood. First off, what is the reaction of the State Department? What’s being done, I assume, to have him released, if he hasn’t been released already? And then if you could talk a little more broadly about whether or not the State Department or the Administration believes that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization, and what this says about dealing with a government in Cairo that is refusing to recognize such a significant part of the population in Egypt.

MS. HARF: Absolutely. So we can confirm that a locally employed staff member of the U.S. Embassy was detained on January 25th and that, as far as we understand, he has been held without charges since then. We have been in touch with the Government of Egypt and have requested additional information about his case. The locally employed staff member was detained, I think, over a weekend on January 25th while off-duty, as I think maybe you mentioned.

The United States does not – has not designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. We have been very clear in Egypt that we will work with all sides and all parties to help move an inclusive process forward. We’ve also repeatedly, both publicly and privately, called on the interim government to move forward in an inclusive manner. That means talking to all parties, bringing them into the process. We’re not saying what the future government should look like specifically other than that it should be inclusive. That, of course, includes the Muslim Brotherhood. We will continue talking to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as part of our broad outreach to the different parties and groups there.

QUESTION: So if he was arrested or detained anyways off-duty, is it your understanding he was – he is being detained because of his liaison with the Muslim Brotherhood, or was there another reason to your understanding?

MS. HARF: Let me see if we have more clarity on this. I’m not sure we have entire clarity about the reasons for his continued detention. Let me check with our folks and see. Again, I’m not sure if we know exactly why he’s being detained.

QUESTION: Because otherwise, I mean I’m sure other employees at the Embassy are – would be reluctant to liaise with the Muslim Brotherhood or any opposition groups that the current government in Cairo seems to not look upon favorably. And –

MS. HARF: Let me see – oh, sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. No, and so I just wonder, as you say, how the Obama Administration and the State Department is going to continue reaching out to the Muslim Brotherhood. How will they do that if employees are being arrested and there’s certain penalties that people have to face in doing so.

MS. HARF: Well – yeah. No, it’s – to be clear, I’m not saying that that was the reason for his detention. I would need to confirm that with folks.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I actually haven’t heard that, so let me check and see that.

Again, he was a locally employed staff member. Our folks that are on the ground there have been talking to the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups as well. So let me see two things if I can get a little more clarity about the reason for his detention and also what his job was at the Embassy. I just don’t have all that clarity.

QUESTION: Okay. So would an American official at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo be able to liaise with the Muslim Brotherhood? I assume they have been.

MS. HARF: Well, they certainly have been. Absolutely.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: And again, I’m not sure that was the reason for his detention. So before we sort of take this – I’m happy to check and see if we just have some more clarity on that.

* * *

Enhanced by Zemanta
About these ads

Leave a comment

Filed under Foreign Service, Huh? News, Locally Employed Staff, Questions, Realities of the FS, State Department, Terrorism, U.S. Missions

US Embassy Egypt: Ordered Departure Lifted, Issues New Travel Alert

– Domani Spero

On January 6, the State Department issued a new Travel Alert advising U.S. citizens of the risks of travelling to Egypt due to continuing unrest.  The ordered departure of US Embassy Cairo and USCG Alexandria staff have now been lifted but the personnel for the constituent post is still operating out of Cairo pending security upgrades in Alexandria.

The U.S. Department of State alerts U.S. citizens of the risks of travelling to Egypt due to the continuing political and social unrest. This Travel Alert supersedes the Travel Alert issued on December 18, 2013, and will expire on March 16, 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 will be 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 different factions, some of which have resulted on occasion in deaths and injuries to those involved, and property damage. Participants have thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails and security forces have used tear gas and other crowd control measures against demonstrators. Of continued concern is gender-based violence in and around protest areas where women have been the targets of sexual assault. There have been instances of the use of firearms as well. Most violent protests have occurred in major metropolitan areas, including Cairo and its suburbs, Alexandria, and Port Said.

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 and Western Sinai resorts such as Hurghada, Sharm el Sheikh, Dahhab, Nuweiba, and Taba has been calm; 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.

Read in full here.

On the same day, the US Embassy in Cairo issued an Emergency Message with security updates for Coptic Christmas, observed today, the 7th day of January. It recommended that  “U.S. citizens remain vigilant, particularly if visiting Coptic churches over the next 48 hours. If there are signs or indications that a problem exists or is developing the best course of action is to leave the area.”

 ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Leave a comment

Filed under Americans Abroad, Consular Work, Foreign Service, Govt Reports/Documents, Realities of the FS, Security, State Department, U.S. Missions

Senate Confirms Former Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson for the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau

– Domani Spero

Late afternoon on December 16, the Senate began a 15 minute roll call vote on confirmation of Executive Calendar #406, Anne W. Patterson, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Ambassador, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs).  She was confirmed by 78-16 votes.

The Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA), currently headed by Acting Assistant Secretary Beth Jones, deals with U.S. foreign policy and U.S. diplomatic relations with AlgeriaBahrainEgyptIranIraqIsraelJordan,KuwaitLebanonLibyaMoroccoOmanPalestinian Territories,QatarSaudi ArabiaSyriaTunisiaUnited Arab Emirates, andYemen. Regional policy issues that NEA handles include Iraq, Middle East peace, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and political and economic reform.

The former Deputy State IG, and former ambassador to Egypt (also to El Salvador and Colombia) will now be in charge of that whole region.

Ambassador Patterson  will take over a bureau that this past summer, sacrificed one of it’s DASes in the Benghazi fallout.   She succeeds Jeffrey Feltman whose NEA bureau back in 2011 gets high marks despite the workload and chaos.  See Near Eastern Affairs Bureau in Action Gets High Marks: Outstanding Job, High Morale Amidst Intense Workload and Regional Chaos.  Ambassador Feltman left in May 2012 for the Political Affairs position in the UN.

Related posts:

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Ambassadors, Assistant Secretary, Confirmed, Congress, Foreign Service, FSOs, Leadership and Management, State Department

Significant Attacks Against U.S. Diplomatic Facilities/Personnel From 1998-2012

by Domani Spero

The State Department recently released its compilation of significant attacks against U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel from 1998 to 2012.

The list notes that some attacks may not be included because, in certain cases, the motivation of the attacks could not be determined. In other cases, violence against individuals may not have been reported through official channels.  It says that the information is not an all-inclusive compilation but “a reasonably comprehensive listing of significant attacks.”

Thousands of protestors attacked the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, breaking windows, setting fire to the Consular Section entrance, and causing extensive damage. (U.S. Department of State Photos)

Thousands of protestors attacked the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, breaking windows, setting fire to the Consular Section entrance, and causing extensive damage. 2012 (U.S. Department of State Photo)

Below is the list of attacks in 2012 We have highlighted in red all attacks with death or injuries, including incidents where the casualties are non-Americans.

JANUARY 1 TO DECEMBER 31 – IRAQ: Unknown individuals targeted the U.S. Consulate in Kirkuk with indirect-fire attacks on 41 separate occasions; additional indirect-fire attacks were launched against other U.S. interests in Iraq.

*FEBRUARY 2, 2012 – BAMAKO, MALI: Demonstrators attacked a U.S. Embassy vehicle with stones while the vehicle was en route to evacuate Mission dependents from a local school. A second Embassy vehicle also was attacked in a different location. There were no injuries in either incident.

FEBRUARY 20, 2012 – KANDAHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: Unknown individuals attacked a U.S. Army convoy carrying one Embassy employee, killing one U.S. soldier and wounding two others.

MARCH 2, 2012 – ADEN, YEMEN: A gunman fired three rounds into the side window of a U.S. Embassy vehicle. No one was hurt in the attack.

MARCH 17, 2012 – FARYAB PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: Insurgents fired two rockets at the U.S. provincial reconstruction team compound. No injuries or damage were reported.

MARCH 24, 2012 – URUZGAN PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: An explosive device detonated against a vehicle outside an entry control point of the U.S. provincial reconstruction team compound, killing four Afghan National Police officers and one local national.

MARCH 26, 2012 – LASHKAR GAH, AFGHANISTAN: An individual dressed in an Afghan National Army uniform killed two International Security Assistance Force soldiers and wounded another at the main entry control point of the U.S. provincial reconstruction team compound.

APRIL 12, 2012 – VALLEY OF THE APURIMAC, ENE, AND MANTARO RIVERS, PERU: Presumed members of Sendero Luminoso terrorist group fired on a U.S. government-owned helicopter, killing one Peruvian police officer and wounding the Peruvian crew chief.

APRIL 15 TO 16, 2012 – KABUL, AFGHANISTAN: The U.S. Embassy compound sustained minor damage after heavily armed gunmen attacked several diplomatic missions and Afghan government buildings throughout the city.

APRIL 16, 2012 – GHOR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: Unknown individuals attacked a U.S. provincial reconstruction team compound with small-arms fire but caused no injuries.

APRIL 16, 2012 – MANILA, PHILIPPINES: Protesters stole several letters from the sign at the Embassy front gate and threw paint onto the building.

JUNE 6, 2012 – BENGHAZI, LIBYA: An explosive device detonated outside the U.S. Special Mission, leaving a large hole in the perimeter wall but causing no injuries.

JUNE 16, 2012 – PAKTIKA PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: Unknown gunmen opened fire on a U.S. Embassy helicopter, striking the aircraft and rupturing its fuel tank, but causing no injuries.

AUGUST 8, 2012 – ASADABAD CITY, AFGHANISTAN: Two suicide bombers detonated their explosives near U.S. provincial reconstruction team members walking near Forward Operating Base Fiaz, killing three U.S. service members and one USAID employee, and wounding nine U.S. soldiers, one U.S. diplomat, four local employees, and one Afghan National Army member.

SEPTEMBER 3, 2012 – PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN: A suicide bomber in an explosives-laden vehicle attacked a U.S. Consulate General motorcade near the U.S. Consulate General’s housing complex, injuring two U.S. officials, two locally employed staff drivers, a local police bodyguard, and several other policemen providing security for the motorcade.

SEPTEMBER 8, 2012 – ZABUL PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: The U.S. provincial reconstruction team was targeted with two improvised explosive devices, but suffered no injuries.

SEPTEMBER 10, 2012 – BAGHDAD, IRAQ: Unknown individuals on the ground fired at a U.S. Embassy aircraft, but caused no damage to the aircraft and no injuries to those on board.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2012 – JERUSALEM: A “flash-bang” device was thrown at the front door of an official U.S. Consulate General residence, damaging an exterior door and hallway, but causing no injuries.

SEPTEMBER 11 TO 15, 2012 – CAIRO, EGYPT: Protesters overran U.S. Embassy perimeter defenses and entered the Embassy compound. No Americans were injured in the violent demonstrations that continued for four days.

SEPTEMBER 11 TO 12, 2012 – BENGHAZI, LIBYA: Attackers used arson, small arms, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortars against the U.S. Special Mission, a Mission annex, and U.S. personnel en route between both facilities, killing the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other U.S. government personnel, wounding two U.S. personnel and three Libyan contract guards, and destroying both facilities.

SEPTEMBER 12, 2012 – TUNIS, TUNISIA: Demonstrators, at the U.S. Embassy to protest inflammatory material posted on the Internet, threw stones at the compound’s fence and tried to get to the Embassy perimeter wall, before police secured the area.

SEPTEMBER 13, 2012 – SANA’A, YEMEN: Protesters stormed the Embassy compound, looting property and setting several fires. No U.S. citizens were injured in the attack. Throughout the day, groups of protesters harassed the U.S. Embassy and a hotel where Embassy personnel were residing.

SEPTEMBER 14, 2012 – CHENNAI, INDIA: Protesters outside the U.S. Consulate General threw a Molotov cocktail, causing some damage but no injuries.

SEPTEMBER 14, 2012 – KHARTOUM, SUDAN: An angry mob threw rocks at the U.S. Embassy, cut the Mission’s local power supply, and used seized police equipment to battle the Embassy’s defenders, damaging more than 20 windows and destroying several security cameras.

SEPTEMBER 14, 2012 – TUNIS, TUNISIA: Protesters breached the U.S. Embassy wall and caused significant damage to the motor pool, outlying buildings, and the chancery. Separately, unknown assailants destroyed the interior of the American Cooperative School. No U.S. citizens were injured in either attack.

SEPTEMBER 16, 2012 – KARACHI, PAKISTAN: Protesters broke through police lines and threw rocks into the U.S. Consulate General perimeter, damaging some windows but causing no injuries.

SEPTEMBER 17, 2012 – JAKARTA, INDONESIA: Demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails and other material at the U.S. Embassy to protest inflammatory material posted on the Internet, injuring 11 police officers and causing minor damage to the Embassy.

SEPTEMBER 18, 2012 – BEIJING, CHINA: Protesters surrounded the U.S. ambassador’s vehicle and caused minor damage to the vehicle, but no injuries were reported.

SEPTEMBER 18, 2012 – PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN: Demonstrators outside the U.S. Consulate threw rocks and Molotov cocktails, and pulled down a billboard showing a U.S. flag.

SEPTEMBER 23, 2012 – LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM: During a demonstration by thousands of protesters outside the U.S. Embassy, an unknown individual threw a rock at the building, damaging a ballistic- resistant window.

SEPTEMBER 27, 2012 – KOLKATA, INDIA: Protesters marched toward the American Center, rushed the gates, and threw sticks and stones at the facility, causing minor damage to a window.

OCTOBER 1, 2012 – KANDAHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: Unknown individuals opened fire on the U.S. provincial reconstruction team facility with small-arms fire, but caused no injuries.

OCTOBER 4, 2012 – KANDAHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN:Unknown individuals targeted the U.S. provincial reconstruction team with small-arms fire, but caused no injuries.

OCTOBER 11, 2012 – SANA’A, YEMEN: The U.S. Embassy’s senior foreign service national investigator was shot and killed in his vehicle by gunmen on a motorcycle. The terrorist group Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attack.

OCTOBER 13, 2012 – KANDAHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: A suicide bomber detonated a suicide vest as a delegation of U.S. and Afghan officials arrived for a meeting, killing two U.S. citizens and five Afghan officials.

OCTOBER 29, 2012 – TUNIS, TUNISIA: Two men in a car harassed and threw a can at a U.S. military officer assigned to the Embassy who was driving a vehicle with diplomatic license plates. The officer was not injured in the incident.

NOVEMBER 4, 2012 – FARAH, AFGHANISTAN: An unknown individual attacked the U.S. provincial reconstruction team facility with a grenade but caused no injuries.

NOVEMBER 18, 2012 – PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN: Two mortar rounds exploded near U.S. Consulate General housing, injuring one local guard and damaging the consul general’s residence with shrapnel.

NOVEMBER 21, 2012 – JAKARTA, INDONESIA: Demonstrators, protesting inflammatory material posted on the Internet, threw objects at the U.S. Embassy.

NOVEMBER 23, 2012 – MEDAN, INDONESIA: Demonstrators at the American Presence Post damaged a vehicle gate in an attempt to gain access to the ground floor of the building.

NOVEMBER 23, 2012 – PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN: A round of indirect fire landed near a U.S. Consulate General residence but did not detonate and caused no injuries or damage.

DECEMBER 4, 2012 – DHAKA, BANGLADESH: Demonstrators surrounded a U.S. Embassy vehicle on the road, attempted to set it afire, and threw rocks and bricks at it, shattering several windows and injuring the driver.

DECEMBER 22, 2012 – TUNIS, TUNISIA: Protesters forced their way into the Ministry of Justice to confront a visiting delegation of U.S. government investigators. No one was hurt in the encounter, but photos of the U.S. investigators inside the Ministry of Justice were later posted on social media and other Internet sites.

The complete list is accessible online here.

👀

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Americans Abroad, Diplomatic Attacks, Diplomatic Security, Foreign Service, Govt Reports/Documents, Security, State Department, U.S. Missions

Morsi Ousted, US Mission Egypt Now On Ordered Departure

— By Domani Spero

Shortly after noon today, the Department of State ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel and family members from Egypt due to the ongoing political and social unrest.  We understand that the AMIDEAST has also flown out the remaining interns/Arabic students (Andrew Pochner who was killed in Alexandria was an intern at AMIDEAST), and that the Fulbrighters have also left. Excerpt from the updated Travel Warning:

If you wish to depart Egypt, you should make plans and depart as soon as possible. The airport is open and commercial flights are still operating, although cancellations may occur. Travelers should check with their airlines prior to their planned travel to verify the flight schedule. There are no plans for charter flights or other U.S. government-sponsored evacuations. U.S. citizens seeking to depart Egypt are responsible for making their own travel arrangements.

Previously, on June 28, 2013, the Department of State authorized the departure of a limited number of non-emergency employees and family members.

The last time the US Embassy in Cairo was ordered evacuated was in January-February 2011.  The embassy staff did not return to post until April that year.

On 03 Jul 2013 19:36, Al Jazeera reported that the Egyptian army has overthrown President Mohamed Morsi, announcing a roadmap for the country’s political future that will be implemented by a national reconciliation committee:

The head of Egypt’s armed forces issued a declaration on Wednesday evening suspending the constitution and appointing the head of the constitutional court as interim head of state.

In a televised broadcast, flanked by military leaders, religious authorities and political figures, General Abdel
Fattah al-Sisi effectively declared the removal of  Morsi.

Sisi called for presidential and parliamentary elections, a panel to review the constitution and a national reconciliation committee that would include youth movements. He said the roadmap had been agreed by a range of political groups.

Ahram Online reported that the head of Egypt’s High Constitutional Court, the most senior Egyptian court, is Adly Mansour. He was promoted to position in June. He is now reported as the new interim president of Egypt.  The website also notes the attendees at the press conference where El-Sisi gave his speech included a number of top military and police officials who sat in two rows on either side of the podium; the Coptic Orthodox patriarch Tawadros II; the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed El-Tayyeb; ElBaradei; a representative of Nour Party; Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, one of the anti-Morsi Rebel campaign’s founders; and a senior judicial figure.

Next talk coming up?

$1.3 billion in annual aid to Egypt’s military, or as time.com puts it, the aid that’s about 20% of Egypt’s most stable public institution.  The text of Foreign Assistance Act requiring US gov to cut military aid to countries after a coup: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/22/8422 ….

U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued the following statement on the removal of Mohamed Morsi as Egypt’s president:

“It is unfortunate that Morsi did not heed popular demands for early elections after a year of his incompetent leadership and attempting a power grab for the Muslim Brotherhood.  Morsi was an obstacle to the constitutional democracy most Egyptians wanted.  I am hopeful that his departure will reopen the path to a better future for Egypt, and I encourage the military and all political parties to cooperate in the peaceful establishment of democratic institutions and new elections that lead to an Egypt where minority rights are protected.  But make no mistake about it, Egypt is in for very difficult days.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor also praised the Egyptian military for taking action, saying, “democracy is about more than elections.”

The folks over at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee appeared to be gone for the holidays.

President Obama released a statement with the following:

The United States is monitoring the very fluid situation in Egypt, and we believe that ultimately the future of Egypt can only be determined by the Egyptian people. Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsy and suspend the Egyptian constitution. I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsy and his supporters. Given today’s developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the Government of Egypt.

 

And State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki apparently declined to specify earlier Wednesday what would constitute  a military coup, though she affirmed the U.S. recognition of Morsi as the democratically elected leader.

Haven’t we seen this before? Honduras. 2009 when the military removed a sitting president and flew him out to Costa Rica.  But certainly without the millions protesting like in Egypt.  Here’s what we might hear down the road.  “[O]n the ground, there’s a lot of discussion about who did what to whom and what things were constitutional or not, which is why our lawyers are really looking at the event as we understand them in order to come out with the accurate determination.”

We suspect that the State Department’s Office of the Legal Adviser is busy. There has not been a nominee since Avril Haines’ nomination was withdrawn so she could be nominated as CIA’s #2.  Mary McLeod, the Principal Deputy Legal Adviser is currently it.

👀

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Congress, Evacuations, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Service, FSOs, Obama, Protests, State Department, U.S. Missions

US Mission Egypt Now on Authorized Departure But July 4th Celebration Still On

— By Domani Spero

On June 28, the State Department announced the authorized departure of “a limited number” of non-emergency USG personnel and family members from Egypt due to the ongoing unrest.  Since we’re now in the summer season and school is out, hopefully a good number of family members have already left the country. The Travel Alert dated May 15, 2013 has now been replaced with a Travel Warning that U.S. citizens defer travel to Egypt at this time.

The embassy had previously announced that it will be closed to the public on Sunday, June 30 and later announced closure also for Monday, July 1.  (See US Embassy Cairo: To Close on June 30, Be Prepared to Shelter in Place).  But as of today, we understand that the Embassy Front Office has yet to cancel post’s July 4th celebration for next week.

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens traveling to or living in Egypt to defer non-essential travel to Egypt at this time due to the continuing possibility of political and social unrest.  On June 28, 2013, the Department of State authorized the departure of a limited number of non-emergency employees and family members.  U.S. citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Alert issued for Egypt dated May 15, 2013.

On June 28, the Department of State authorized the departure of a limited number of non-emergency U.S. government personnel and family members from Egypt due to the ongoing political and social unrest.

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.  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. While violent protests have occurred in major metropolitan areas, including downtown Cairo, Alexandria, and Port Said, the security situation in most tourist centers, including Luxor, Aswan, and Red Sea resorts such as Sharm el Sheikh, continues to be calm. Of specific concern is a rise in gender-based violence in and around protest areas where women have been the specific targets of sexual assault.

Read the June 28 Travel Warning here.

In related news,  Ahram Online is reporting that a 21-year old American has become a second casualty amidst clashes in Alexandria.  The report citing  Amin Ezz El-Din, head of Alexandria’s security directorate said that the young American 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 stabbed to death.  Neither the US Embassy Cairo or USCG Alexandria has confirmed the death. Then there’s this side story from McClatchy Newspapers’ Middle East Bureau chief:

Screen Shot 2013-06-28

Update @ 10:04 pm PST:  The American killed in Alexandria has been identified by Kenyon College as Andrew Pochter.  Pochter, 21, of Chevy Chase, Md., died during clashes between opponents and supporters of President Mohamed Morsi.  He was an intern at AMIDEAST, an American non-profit organization engaged in international education, training and development activities in the Middle East and North Africa.  There is troubling report that the victim was asked if he was an American prior to stabbing. If true, this would be the second incident in a few weeks that appears directed at U.S. citizens.  Until May 9th this year, security advisories from the embassy were still saying that “in general, anti-American sentiment is not directed at individual U.S. citizens in Egypt.”

The ongoing protests leading up to the mega-protest organized for June 30 while directed at President Morsi and his party are taking on an increasingly anti-American tenor.

The Tamarod (Rebel) Campaign collecting signatures for an early presidential election has listed its reasons online including one why it rejects its sitting president: “We reject you… Because Egypt is still following the footsteps of the USA.” More about the Tamarod campaign here.

The protesters are saying it with banners, too; all posted on Twitter and cc’ed to @USEmbassyCairo.  The banners are made with specific messages; as well, there are photos circulating of the U.S. ambassador’s photos spray painted with red X marks.  That looks like a lot of anger just waiting to burst …

Twiiter_patterson

Twiiter_patterson2

Twitter_Obama

Meanwhile, CNN’s Barbara Starr said that U.S. Marines stationed in southern Europe have been put on alert as a precaution in advance of expected large demonstrations and potential unrest in Egypt this weekend:

About 200 combat capable Marines in Sigonella, Italy, and Moron, Spain, have been told to be ready to be airborne within 60 minutes of getting orders to deploy, according to two administration officials.

The units have several V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft that would carry troops and infantry weapons to Egypt to protect the U.S. Embassy and American government personnel and citizens if violence broke out against Americans.

The officials both emphasized this is contingency planning in advance of the expected demonstrations to ensure American military assets, including rescue forces, can act if needed. In the event Americans had to be evacuated from Egypt and could not get to the airport due to the unrest, there are about 2,000 additional Marines on board three Navy warships in the Red Sea, officials said.

A third official said the decision to keep the warship in the Red Sea was “very precautionary.”

Continue reading:  Out of precaution, Marines on ready to go to Egypt to protect U.S. Embassy, citizens.

👀

Leave a comment

Filed under Ambassadors, Consular Work, DCM, Foreign Service, FSOs, Holidays and Celebrations, Media, Protests, Realities of the FS, Security, Social Media, State Department

US Embassy Cairo: To Close on June 30, Be Prepared to Shelter in Place

— By Domani Spero

 

The US Embassy in Cairo issued its Security Message to U.S. Citizens No. 48 indicating that the embassy will be closed on Sunday June 30th, set as the date for a national anti-Morsi, anti Muslim Brotherhood protests in Egypt. While the embassy did not actually say “be prepared to shelter in place,” it notes that the situation is “particularly unpredictable” and folks need to “possess the necessary items should it be necessary to remain at home for an extended period.” Below is an excerpt from the security message:

In anticipation of demonstrations that may turn violent, the U.S. Embassy will be closed to the public on June 30th. The U.S. Embassy will continue monitor conditions and announce decisions regarding its operating status.

As potentially violent protest activity may occur before June 30th, U.S. citizens are advised to maintain a low profile and restrict movement to the immediate area of their residences and neighborhoods starting on June 28. U.S. citizens should monitor announcements from the U.S. Embassy and local media in order to stay current with the situation. As the security situation is particularly unpredictable, please ensure you possess the necessary items should it be necessary to remain at home for an extended period.

Due to a report that opposition groups plan to solicit signatures at sixteen Cairo Metro stations on the morning of June 25, the U.S. Embassy is advising its personnel to utilize other transportation means. Though violence is not expected in connection with soliciting signatures, it is possible that confrontations between individuals involved and opposing groups could become violent.

Meanwhile,  @USEmbassyCairo can’t seem to catch a break after Ambassador Anne Patterson’s recent outreach events suffered an online backlash not just on Twitter but also on the embassy’s FB page. Some pretty nasty stuff there.

On the June 30 closure, one Twitter user tweets, “Everybody is officially freaking out.”

(‘_’)

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Ambassadors, Americans Abroad, Consular Work, Facebook, Foreign Service, FSOs, Protests, Security, Social Media, U.S. Missions

Friday Inbox: Forget “Situation Is Fluid” — Remember “Situational Awareness”

In our mailbox this morning:

Spilled hot coffee on your lap?  It’s probably an isolated incident. Still, you should exercise greater situational awareness, and be vigilant about the location and volume of your cup. Don’t worry, we have it on good authority that coffee imports remain strong. 

Rolling blackouts knocked out the lights at your softball game?  Well, it’s probably just an anomaly. Statistically, according to Wikipedia, Cairo gets at least twelve hours of daylight this time of year.  Exercise situational awareness and modify your plans accordingly. 

Seven Egyptian officers abducted by militants in the Sinai?  That’s a rare occurrence. The next group will exercise greater situational awareness, and perhaps be less obvious about being, you know, Egyptian officers. 

 

Our correspondent sounds snarkily unhappy.  It may have something to do with creeping developments like below:

Child Vendor Killed Outside US Embassy Cairo’s Front Gates (Ahram Online, February 2013):

“An Egyptian army conscript walks up to 12-year-old Omar Salah Omran, who sells hot sweet potatoes on the street – outside the front gates of Cairo’s US Embassy, close to Tahrir Square – and requests two potatoes from the young street vendor.

Omar answers, “I’ll do so after I go to the bathroom.” The allegedly untrained soldier retorts with a mix of cockiness and jest that he will shoot Omar if he doesn’t comply immediately.

On Omar’s reply, “You can’t shoot me” – the conscript, on the alleged presumption that his weapon was not loaded, sent two bullets through Omar’s heart. He died instantly.”

Chris Stone Knife Attack Outside US Embassy Cairo (AhramOnline/MENA, May 10, 2013):

“The man who stabbed an American in Cairo on Thursday says he was motivated by a hatred of the United States.  Mahmoud Badr, 30, who holds a bachelor’s degree in commerce, was arrested on Thursday after stabbing American academic Chris Stone in the neck outside the US embassy in Cairo.”

Separately, we heard that “Many Amcits in Cairo are concerned about the lack of security in the area outside the Embassy. Egyptian security forces are present in theory but do little other than sit at their check points and drink tea…. The Embassy appears to take little interest in what takes place outside its fortress.”

Al-Qaeda targeted US, French embassies in Cairo: Investigators (Ahram Online, May 15, 2013):

“Investigations have revealed that members of the Al-Qaeda terrorist group – who escaped from prison during Egypt’s 2011 uprising – had planned attacks on the US and French embassies in Cairo, according to official Egyptian news agency MENA.[...] Investigators said that the suspects had planned suicide attacks – with the use of car bombs – against the US and French embassies in Cairo.”

Benghazi Emails (NBC News, The Weekly Standard, May 15, 2013)

“On 10 September the Agency (CIA) notified Embassy Cairo of social media reports calling for a demonstration and encouraging jihadists to break into the Embassy.”

CIA Warned of ‘Jihadist’ Threat to Cairo Embassy (The Weekly Standard, May 15, 2013)

“The editing process specifically removed any hint that “jihadists” were encouraged to “break into” the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. In fact, jihadists were incited to act by Mohammed al Zawahiri, the younger brother of al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, as well as several other al Qaeda-linked extremists.”

 

Meanwhile the State Department has now issued an updated Travel Alert dated May 15, 2013  to include information “about a knife attack on a private U.S. citizen near the Embassy on May 9.” The alert does not/not include any reference to a terror plot or terror cell in Egypt or that the mission has now been targetted in at least two known incidents.

 

– DS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Consular Work, Diplomatic Security, Foreign Service, FSOs, Realities of the FS, Security, State Department, Terrorism, U.S. Missions

US Embassy Cairo Issues Security Message: Yo! Maintain Good Personal Security; A Terror Cell Got Disrupted Also!

But … nothintodowithus!

Two days after the Egyptian Government announced the arrest of three militants with ties to Al Qaeda plotting terrorist attacks in Egyptian cities and after local officials have reportedly told their American counterparts that the US Embassy was a target, the U.S. Embassy Cairo finally released Security Message to U.S. Citizens No. 44: Maintaining Good Personal Security in Egypt. Excerpt below:

The knife attack on the Embassy’s perimeter, along with weekend media reports acknowledging that Egyptian authorities have disrupted a terror cell possibly targeting Egyptian and Western interests, serve as yet another reminder of the need to exercise good situational awareness.  Effective situational awareness starts with fully understanding the threat environment and elevating your personal alert level when indicators are present or as the environment may dictate – oftentimes in more public settings. Security and Emergency Messages to U.S. Citizens over the past year portray an environment where elevated awareness and good security habits must become normal practice.

In an incident on May 9, 2013 involving the stabbing of a U.S. citizen on the Embassy perimeter, the victim was approached by an unknown person who asked whether he was an American.  The victim turned away from his attacker, at which point the attacker stabbed the victim with a knife.  Though in general, anti-American sentiment is not directed at individual U.S. citizens in Egypt, U.S policy in the region does elicit strong, often negative emotions in Egypt.  Therefore, U.S. citizens should consider their profile as U.S. citizens, and possibly adjust depending on the area they are in, including near the Embassy compound, or the person/s with whom they may be interacting.  Moving in and around the Embassy perimeter can readily identify U.S. citizens as such.

The Egyptian Minister of Interior’s announcement on May 11 that a terror cell was disrupted signals the need to be vigilant and exercise good security habits.  The most vulnerable periods are normally when departing/arriving from/to residence/workplace and therefore should be a time of elevated awareness.  Please do not set routine patterns; vary your times and routes.  Get a sense of what/who belongs in the neighborhood and  report anything appearing out of the ordinary or suspicious.

 

The knife attack gets the lead and exactly two paragraphs, in addition to one statement previously released about that incident on May 10th (see Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Knife Attack on Embassy Perimeter).  The terror plot unmentioned except for a disrupted terror cell. Makes one wonder if post management even acknowledged to its mission staff that the embassy was a target.

In a separate development, in no way related to whatever —  the embassy also announced that the Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East Philip Gordon (former EUR A/S) visited Cairo to meet with a range of government, political party, civil society, and business leaders.

Dr. Gordon is said to have “reaffirmed the importance of the U.S.-Egypt relationship and reiterated the United States’ strong support for the Egyptian people as they work to complete their democratic transition.” As well, he “pledged continued U.S. support as Egypt works to stabilize its economy and reach agreement with the IMF to promote its economic recovery.”

On May 9th, the AP reported that the IMF assessed that Egypt’s financial situation is deteriorating and the lending agency won’t move ahead with a $4.8 billion loan until receiving updated economic information and reform plans from President Mohamed Morsy’s government.

sig4

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Americans Abroad, Consular Work, Diplomatic Security, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Service, FSOs, Real Post of the Month, Realities of the FS, Security, State Department, Terrorism, U.S. Missions

A New Travel Warning for Egypt? No Comment or Howabout “There Are No Guarantees In This Business”

The NYT reported on May 11 that Egyptian security forces have arrested three militants with ties to Al Qaeda who were planning terrorist attacks in Egyptian cities and against a foreign embassy.  An unnamed western official told the NYT that the Egyptians had privately identified the embassy as the US Embassy in Cairo. Egyptian officials have reportedly told their American counterparts that the US Embassy was a target.

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said at a news conference that the suspects had been arrested with 22 pounds of explosive materials and instructions on how to make bombs and build rockets and model airplanes to use in the attacks.

He said the suspects were ‘‘on the verge’’ of attacking an embassy when they were arrested.

The State Department would not comment on the Egyptian allegations. ‘‘We don’t discuss the specifics of our operations nor the exchanges we have with foreign officials,’’ said Jennifer R. Psaki, a department spokeswoman.

As of this writing, there is no USG Travel Warning issued for Egypt.  There is a Travel Alert dated March 29, 2013 that talks about “the continuing possibility of political and social unrest, incidents of which have led to recent violence.” Also that “There have been no reports of U.S. citizens being targeted specifically because of their nationality; however, in isolated instances, Westerners and U.S. citizens have been caught in the middle of clashes and demonstrations.”

That March 29 alert made no mention of al-Qaeda or terrorism in Egypt. The Embassy’s Messages to U.S. Citizens do not appear to include any details about the October 2012 incident where an al-Qaeda cell was caught in Cairo’s Nasr City. At least, we could not find anything on the embassy or OSAC’s website.

We have several contacts in Egypt and one of them shared with us the security advisory sent by an international organization to its 1,000 plus personnel in Egypt on May 11. Below is an excerpt:

Egyptian security forces reportedly apprehended three militants with alleged ties to al-Qaeda in Alexandria and Cairo on May 11. Initial reports indicate militants planned to execute suicide bombings in central locations in Cairo and Alexandria in the coming days, including in Metro stations. Mohammed Ibrahim then added that their target was a “foreign embassy”, which other reports claimed was the French Embassy in Cairo’s Giza district.

The minister further stated that the cell is related to a previous cell that was apprehended in Nasr City on October 24, 2012. In that incident, forces raided a suspected militant hideout in Cairo’s Nasr City District, killing one suspect said to have been linked to the deadly September 11 Consulate in Benghazi.

The security advisory on its assessment says that the arrests highlight the continued presence of Islamist militants “throughout Egypt and their connection with transnational extremist networks.”

The advisory also notes that the militants of the Nasr City cell who were apprehended in October last year were arrested on suspicion of possessing weapons, engineering attacks in Cairo, planning assassinations of government leaders, and smuggling weapons from Libya to support the rebels in Syria. It warns that “A suicide attack in the immediate term highlights militants’ ability to advance beyond the preliminary stages of planning attacks, which coincides with the ongoing security and intelligence vacuum that emerged following the January 2011 revolution.”

Apparently, there were reports claiming that the target was the French Embassy. The advisory addressed this but appeared convinced that “there remains a high likelihood” that the US Embassy Cairo may have ben the target due to the “notable rise in Anti-US sentiments” since the Arab Spring:

In case the French Embassy was not the intended target, we assess there remains a high likelihood that other Western missions in Cairo may have been targets, primarily the U.S. and Israeli embassies. This is due to a notable rise in anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli sentiments in North Africa since the 2011 upheaval.

Also — the security advisory points to the potential risk for reprisal attacks in the aftermath of the arrests:

As details emerge regarding the background of the detainees, we assess that the risk for reprisal attacks in Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt will increase.  This threat is likely to include, but is not limited to, the targeting of security installations as well as foreign interests. Furthermore, in case the planned attack was indeed related to the situation in Mali, this threat applies to Western-affiliated interests in the Middle East and Africa regions as a whole, and not solely in Egypt. 

Via Google Earth

Google Earth

Okay then –

We’re going to have to ask a delicate question – which will annoy folks at Embassy Cairo’s front office.

Did post management know that there is this threat? Does it know about the threat to the mission now?

If the answer is “no” — does that mean their local and intel contacts are plainly useless? But … but …see, apparently “Egyptian officials have reportedly told their American counterparts that the US Embassy was a target.”

Well, then if that is true, then the answer had to be a “yes.” In which case the policy of “No Double Standard” kicks in. That’s the part where if/when the Department shares information with the official U.S. community (as in travel warnings/alerts/consular info program), it should also make the same or similar information available to the non-official U.S. community if the underlying threat applies to both official and non-official U.S. citizens/nationals (see 7 FAM 052.1).

So far we haven’t seen anything from US Embassy Cairo.  This is a curious case that’s bugging our OCD plenty.

Update on May 12@9:50 am:  Wait — we posted this past midnight last night and  this morning, a blog pal kindly knocked us on the head on this — telling the blog that it is “easy” to get around the No Double Standard policy.  See, you only need to tell the public, if you’re alerting the official community.  So, really —  if you carry on as before, and you don’t change official behavior or advice, you don’t need to tell anyone.

Oops …. but… but … oh, dammit!!

If you missed our blog post on US Embassy Cairo on May 11th, see  US Embassy Egypt: From the Real Post Reports, the New Cairo; Plus Western Embassy Targeted.  That post merit at least a triple curse!

 

– DS

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Diplomatic Security, Foreign Service, FSOs, Real Post of the Month, Realities of the FS, Security, State Department, Terrorism, U.S. Missions