US Embassy shelters Americans amid Egypt NGO crackdown

WASHINGTON - Several American citizens have taken refuge in the US Embassy in Cairo amid a sharpening dispute between Washington and Egypt's military-led authorities over US-funded pro-democracy groups in the country, the US State Department said on Monday.
"We can confirm that a handful of US citizens have opted to stay in the embassy compound in Cairo while waiting for permission to depart Egypt," State Department spokeswoman Kate Starr said.
The unusual step of offering US citizens diplomatic refuge follows Cairo's crackdown on non-governmental organizations, including several funded by the US government, which saw travel bans imposed on six American staffers including a son of US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Egyptian police first raided the groups in late December as part of an investigation into foreign funding of 17 pro-democracy and human rights groups, part of what civil society groups say has been a broader crackdown on critics of the army's heavy-handed tactics in dealing with street unrest.
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