NGO workers take refuge at American embassy in Cairo: U.S. official

January 31, 2012 11:17 am 

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 — Several Americans who worked for the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and were banned from departing Egypt have taken refuge at the American embassy in Cairo, a U.S. official confirmed on Monday.

"We can confirm that a handful of U.S. citizens have opted to stay on the embassy compound in Cairo while awaiting permission to depart Egypt," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

"As many of you reported, we did have some difficulty with some U.S. citizens last week associated with these NGOs who were unable to leave the country," she said. "So a handful of these folks are now staying on the embassy compound."

Nuland added that these American citizens were not in physical danger, but she declined to get into their identities and affiliations for the sake of their privacy.

The confirmation came after several Americans were banned by the Egyptian authorities to depart the country in connection with the investigation of NGOs. Among them is the Cairo chief of the International Republican Institute Sam LaHood, who is also the son of U.S. transportation secretary Ray LaHood.

At the end of last year, Egyptian police and prosecutors searched 17 local and foreign groups' offices in the country over suspected illicit funding activities. The searched NGOs included U. S.-based International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

Since then, the United States and Egypt have been sparring over the issue. The United States has voiced deep concerns over these moves and even threatened to cut its military aid to Egypt. But the Egyptian authorities have been defending their actions, insisting that no violations of laws occurred in these investigations. (PNA/Xinhua)

FFC/ebp

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