Last updated: 16 March, 2012

Amnesty: US must clarify destination of arms headed to Egypt

Egypt denied on Friday a US arms shipment headed to the Suez Canal would be unloaded in the country, after rights group Amnesty International warned that Egyptian security forces could abuse the weapons.

The London-based human rights group had demanded on Thursday that the shipment not be offloaded in Egypt, where dozens of protesters have been killed in confrontations with soldiers and police in recent months.

But the US Navy said the shipment would not be offloaded in Egypt, without clarifying its final destination, the London-based organisation said in a subsequent statement.

The Egyptian embassy’s defence attache in Washington also denied the shipment was meant for Egypt, saying it was destined for an “Asian country” through the Suez canal, the official MENA news agency reported on Friday.

The shipment “has nothing to do with Egypt,” said the attache, Major General Mohammed Elkeshky.

Amnesty says the Dutch-flagged vessel, MV Schippersgracht, which left the US Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point (MOTSU), is “carrying a class of dangerous goods that covers cartridges for weapons, fuses and other ammunition” and is headed to Egypt’s Port Said.

Port Said lies at the northern end of the Suez Canal, which leads to the Red Sea and several countries that receive weapons from the United States.

“Amnesty International is urging US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to clarify who is the final recipient of the latest cargo,” the statement said.

It also demanded assurances that arms shipments would not be sent to countries that might use them to commit human rights violations.

Protesters have repeatedly taken to the streets to demand political change, including the ouster of the ruling military, which took power when veteran president Hosni Mubarak quit in the face of a popular uprising early last year.

Dozens have been killed in clashes with the military and police since October.