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Messages for U.S. Citizens

Security Message for U.S. Citizens No. 36: Demonstrations Planned for the Weekend of March 8-9, 2013

Violent clashes have continued to occur intermittently over several days in the downtown area near the Embassy. Bands of youth have confronted police with Molotov cocktails, burned vehicles, thrown rocks at passing cars, and blocked roads and bridges – mostly in the area of the Corniche near Simon Square and the Qasr al-Nil bridge. Police have responded with heavy volleys of tear gas and exhibited tactics that suggest a more forceful effort to arrest the youth than previously seen. The fluidity of the situation has often made it difficult to keep pace with the latest road/bridge closures or spontaneous clashes. U.S. Embassy personnel have been instructed to avoid this downtown area.

Violent clashes between police and protestors continue to be reported in many of the Delta cities as that area of the country remains extremely tense. Embassy personnel have been instructed that any travel to the Delta or Canal cities is restricted unless approved by the security officer. The potential for continued violence in this area, specifically Port Said, exists due to a pending court ruling on Saturday, March 9 in regard to the soccer violence of last year. This ruling may also impact Cairo, as the court’s decision may address culpability of police officers present at the time; the Ahlawy Club (Ultras) began protesting Tuesday night outside the residence of the former Minister of Interior in Dokki in anticipation of the Saturday ruling. This issue could spark significant violence through the weekend in both Cairo and Port Said and possibly resonate in other areas.

U.S. citizens should remain alert for the potential for violent protests throughout the weekend and carefully weigh all movements beyond residences and immediate neighborhoods, particularly avoiding the downtown area of Cairo (the Ahlawy Club is located in Zamalek) and Port Said. The possibility always exists that violence could expand to areas not normally impacted.

Although our focus has been primarily on street violence the past several weeks, U.S. citizens are also reminded of the potential for terrorist attacks. Recently the State Department issued a Worldwide Caution that included concern over possible attacks against U.S citizens, facilities, and businesses in the Middle East and North Africa region. This guidance and the need to be vigilant in regard to potential acts of terror against U.S and western interests is appropriate for Egypt as well. Best practices to avoid becoming a victim include:

  • Be aware of your surroundings; know what fits and what looks out of place.
  • Report suspicious activity.
  • Vary your times and routes, don’t be predictable.
  • Elevate awareness when you may be most vulnerable, arriving/departing residence/work.
  •  Look out the window or peephole before leaving home; scan the area when arriving at a destination.
  • Check your vehicle prior to getting in; look for signs of tampering.
  •  Use your locks at home and in the car.
  •  Screen visitors; don’t share information with those that don’t have a need to know.
  • Brief any family members on all security information and discuss what to do if something occurs.
  • Ask questions if you don’t understand something.
  • Have a plan and think ahead (play the “what if” game), know who to call and where to go for help.
  •  To the extent possible, travel with a friend or family member.
  • Be cognizant of what you carry and how it may elevate your profile, such as a backpack or purse.

As a matter of general practice, U.S. citizens should avoid areas where large gatherings may occur. Even demonstrations or events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. U.S. citizens in Egypt are urged to monitor local news reports and to plan their activities accordingly.

The Embassy reminds U.S. citizens to review their personal security plans and remain alert to their surroundings at all times in Egypt. For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State’s Internet website where the Worldwide Caution, Country Specific Information for Egypt, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts, can be found. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook, and download our free Smart Traveler iPhone App and the Android market to have travel information at your fingertips.

Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or, for callers outside of the United States and Canada, on a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

U.S. citizens are advised to maintain valid travel documents and enroll with the Department of State or the U.S. Embassy Cairo through the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program website. If you enroll we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements and can also help your family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency. U.S. citizens without Internet access may enroll directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

For further information, U.S. citizens may call the Embassy’s American Citizens Services Unit at 2797-2301 during business hours, Sunday to Thursday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Please refer to the American Citizens Services Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/USEmbassyCairo. For emergencies after business hours and on weekends and holidays, U.S. citizens can contact the Embassy Duty Officer via the Embassy switchboard at 2797-3300. The Embassy is located at 5 Tawfik Diab Street (formerly known as Latin America Street), Garden City, Cairo.