Amnesty International asks U.S to stop sending arms, tear gas to Egypt

An Egyptian protester runs from tear gas during clashes with riot police in Cairo on November 23.

Story highlights

  • Rights group wants to ensure the material is not linked to "bloodshed" in Egypt
  • Political protests, clashes with security forces have continued in Egypt
  • The U.S. State Department says it is aware of no current export licenses

Amnesty International is demanding the United States stop allowing the export of arms and riot-control material to Egypt, where security forces have cracked down on protests.

"U.S. arms shipments to Egypt's security forces must be stopped until there is certainty that tear gas and other munitions, weaponry or other equipment aren't linked to bloodshed on Egyptian streets," Amnesty's Brian Wood, who monitors conventional weapons and arms control, said Wednesday.

An American company shipped supplies that feature chemical irritants and riot control agents, Amnesty International said in its statement, with arrival on November 26.

The organization said another shipment in August had the "product code of bullets, cartridges and shells, but the latter was also described as 'ammunition smoke,'" which Amnesty said includes tear gas.

It cited three shipments since the revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February.

Amnesty called on Egyptian security forces, including riot police, to be trained in the use of force and firearms.

Mark Toner, State Department deputy spokesman, told reporters Wednesday, "We've condemned the use of excessive force against protesters during the recent period of civil unrest in Cairo. We do take allegations of misuse of tear gas very seriously."

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He said an ongoing export license has recently expired, but a shipment of tear gas was delivered to Egypt last week. "But beyond that, there are no additional shipments that we're aware of and no additional licenses that we're aware of."

The department is monitoring the security situation in Egypt, Toner said.

Protesters have been upset at the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has ruled Egypt since Mubarak was forced from office.

On the front lines of a street battle in Cairo in late November, protesters took turns hurling stones at helmeted riot police. Every few minutes, the police fired canisters of tear gas back at the demonstrators.

As journalists walked through the melee, demonstrators ran up wielding spent shotgun shells and tear gas canisters.

One of the tear gas canisters had markings clearly identifying it as having been manufactured in Jamestown, Pennsylvania. "Made in USA, made in USA," several of the young men yelled.