Foreign nationals fled Egypt in droves over the weekend, concerned with potential violence as thousands of Egyptians took to the streets calling on President Mohammed Morsi to relinquish power.
Egypt Independent, quoting the Egyptian news agency MENA, reports that Cairo International Airport is facing massive crowds of those trying to get out of Egypt. The numbers are staggering.
In the last two days alone, 60,000 passengers have departed on 254 flights, according to Chairman of EgyptAir Holding Company Tawfik al-Assy.
The Associated Press reports that the airport is “flooded with departing passengers, an exodus that officials said was unprecedented.” Airport officials said that on Friday, all flights departing to Europe, the U.S. and the Gulf were “fully booked.”
AP quoted unnamed officials who reported that among those leaving, many are "families of Egyptian officials and businessmen and those of foreign and Arab League diplomats — as well as many Egyptian Christians."
According to Egypt Independent, Egyptian Army forces were deployed over the weekend to guard entry and exit points at both the airport and the Civil Aviation Ministry.
The State Department on Friday issued a travel warning to U.S. citizens suggesting they “defer non-essential travel to Egypt at this time due to the continuing possibility of political and social unrest.” It also authorized the departure of a limited number of non-emergency employees and family members from Egypt.
Those who decide to stay in Egypt are “urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security.” The travel warning describes the deteriorating security situation in Egypt:
Political unrest, which intensified prior to the constitutional referendum in December 2012 and the anniversary in 2013 of Egypt's 25th January Revolution, is likely to continue in the near future due to unrest focused on the first anniversary of the President’s assumption of office. Demonstrations have, on occasion, degenerated into violent clashes between police and protesters, resulting in deaths, injuries, and extensive property damage. Participants have thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails and security forces have used tear gas and other crowd control measures against demonstrators. There are numerous reports of the use of firearms as well.
The State Department also “strongly urges” U.S. citizens “to avoid all demonstrations in Egypt, as even peaceful ones can quickly become violent, and a foreigner could become a target of harassment or worse.”
On Friday, 21-year-old Andrew Pochter of Maryland was killed in Alexandria while photographing battles between supporters and foes of Morsi. In a statement, his family said he was stabbed by a protester, but a local medical official told the AP he died of gunshot wounds at a hospital.
Officials from other Arab countries are also taking steps to protect their citizens. Egypt Independent reports that Qatar dispatched a private jet to fly Qatari workers out of the country, while Saudi Arabia closed its embassy on Sunday and Monday.