Egyptian Chaos Leads Multinational Companies To Suspend Operations

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EGYPT
Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi march towards Old Cairo as they carry the coffin, covered with a national flag, of their colleague who was killed during Wednesday' clashes in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil) | AP

DETROIT — A number of international companies have suspended operations in Egypt as three days of violent street battles make the streets of Cairo unsafe.

General Motors Co., Electrolux AB, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Heineken N.V., Toyota Motor Corp., Suzuki Motor Corp., BASF SE and others shut down facilities and told thousands of workers to stay at home during unrest that has left more 700 people dead as of late Friday.

"This was a precautionary safety measure to ensure employees would not be exposed to risks traveling to and from work," Daniel Frykholm, a spokesman for Swedish appliance maker Electrolux, said in an email. The company, which has about 6,700 workers in Egypt, asked employees to stay home Wednesday afternoon and Thursday. Friday and Saturday are the Egyptian weekend, and the company will decide Saturday evening if it's safe enough to resume normal operations, Frykholm said.

Royal Dutch Shell closed its offices Thursday. They will remain shuttered Friday and Saturday. The company also restricted employee travel as the violence continued and said it was monitoring the situation. It was unclear whether Shell's main production facility, a joint venture with Badr El-Din Petroleum Co., had been closed.

General Motors' Egyptian operations will remain shut indefinitely, including a plant in the Cairo suburb of 6th October City where it makes cars, light trucks and minibuses. The auto giant has about 1,400 workers in Egypt, where in 1983 it became the first private automaker to establish operations in the country.

At least 700 people have been killed in violence that continues to rage after riot police razed two Cairo encampments where supporters of President Mohammed Morsi were protesting his ouster.

Morsi was deposed by the military on July 3 after months of protests against his rule.

On Friday, at least 64 people, including eight police officers, died in fighting nationwide. Tens of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters clashed with civilians, police and troops in the fiercest street battles to engulf the capital since the country's Arab Spring uprising.

In Cairo, German retail giant Metro closed its headquarters, and its only two grocery stores in the capital were shuttered on Friday, a spokesman for the Duesseldorf company confirmed.

Amsterdam-based beer-maker Heineken N.V. scaled back its six Egyptian breweries to minimum staff on Wednesday afternoon and raised security. It also sent office workers home near Cairo. The company, which has about 2,200 workers in Egypt, reported no incidents at any of its operations.

"Based on today's security assessment our operations in Egypt will remain mostly closed (Saturday), with the exception of the distribution centers in the tourist areas at the Red Sea," spokesman John-Paul Schuirink said in an email.

The chemical company BASF temporarily closed its manufacturing facilities and offices. BASF has been operating in Egypt for about 60 years and produces chemicals used in construction at a plant in the Cairo suburb of Sadat City.

IHS Automotive analyst Paul Newton in London said that Toyota and Suzuki also halted Egyptian production. Because of the unstable political situation, the forecasting company predicted that light-vehicle production in Egypt would fall almost 8 percent this year, with sales dropping nearly 4 percent.

Egypt is one of the largest vehicle manufacturing centers in Africa, Newton said.

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From Ken Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch:

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From Reuters:

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AFP reports that King Abdullah has ordered three field hospitals to be dispatched to Egypt, one day after Saudi Arabia affirmed its support for the military's crackdown on pro-Morsi protesters.

Read the full story here.

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According to a statement by the Vatican press office, Pope Francis "continues to follow with growing concern the serious news coming from Egypt and continues to pray for end to violence, and that the parties choose the path of dialogue and reconciliation."

The Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt also released a statement:

The Coptic orthodox church of Egypt is following closely the unfortunate incidences occurring in our nation Egypt and confirms its strong stance with the Egyptian law enforcement, the armed forces, and all of the institutions of the Egyptian people in its confrontation of the violent armed organizations, dark terrorists, both internal and external, the attacks on the government offices as well as our peaceful churches which are terrorizing our citizens both Coptic and Muslim.

These actions stand against all religions, morality, and humanity. We commend the stance of the friendly and loyal countries who understand the nature of these turns of events and we strongly denounce the erroneous reporting that is being broadcasted in the western media. We invite them to review the actual events subjectively instead of legitimizing these bloody terrorist organizations and all its affiliations with international support and political protection while they are attempting to spread devastation and destruction in our dear nation. We only request that the international and western media please report an valid account of the events with accuracy, truth, and honesty.

We send our condolences for all the victims and martyrs of duty that gave their lives, and we pray for the recovery of all the injured and afflicted. We persevere in our strong national unity and repulse any attempts to polarize our nation into a secular conflict. We absolutely reject any complete or even partial foreign interference in the internal national affairs of Egypt and as the hands of evil are extended to burn, kill and destroy; but the hands of God are nearer to protect, strengthen, and build. We have full confidence in the divine intervention that will navigate the Egyptian people in the delicate time of our history to a better tomorrow and a brighter future that will be filled with justice, peace, and democracy that the people of the Nile Valley deserve.

Long live Egypt, free and proud.

The Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt

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From Reuters:

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Reuters has more on the explosion in Benghazi:

A small explosion went off at the Egyptian consulate in Benghazi on Saturday causing some damage to the building, witnesses said. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the blast. Egyptian security forces are conducting a crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood supporters following last month's ousting of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.

Read more here.

-- Eline Gordts

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AFP reports that security forces claim they have cleared the al-Fatah mosque.

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For an excellent account of the violence yesterday in Ramses Square, read Sarah Carr's piece in Mada Masr.

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Ayman Mohyeldin's photos from the al-Fatah mosque earlier this morning.


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egypt A supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and of ousted president Mohamed Morsi runs past a burning vehicle during clashes with security officers close to Cairo's Ramses Square, on August 16, 2013. (VIRGINIE NGUYEN HOANG/AFP/Getty Images)


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Ammar Badie, the son of Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie, was killed yesterday during the clashes in Ramses Square.

--Eline Gordts

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Germany's foreign ministry warned on Saturday that the violence in Egypt could lead to civil war in the country.

From the Associated Press:

Germany's foreign minister says the violence in Egypt could escalate into civil war unless all parties come together to find a political solution for their differences.

Guido Westerwelle told reporters in Berlin that senior figures from all sides should be included in talks to safeguard the stability of Egypt.

Westerwelle spoke Saturday after meeting with the foreign minister of Qatar.

--Eline Gordts

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A wounded boy is treated as he lies on the floor of the Taamin Sehi field hospital during clashes between security officers and supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, in downtown Cairo, on August 16, 2013. (VIRGINIE NGUYEN HOANG/AFP/Getty Images)

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Egypt has arrested the brother of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, Reuters reports.

More from AFP:

Egyptian authorities have arrested Mohamed al-Zawahiri, brother of Al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri, for supporting ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, a security source told AFP on Saturday.

The brother was arrested in his home district of Giza, adjacent to the capital, the source said.

-- Eline Gordts

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Egypt's Interior Ministry said on Saturday that 173 people died in Friday's clashes, according to Reuters.

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In a provocative move, Egypt's prime minister proposed to ban the Muslim Brotherhood on Saturday.

More from Reuters:

With anger rising on all sides, and no sign of a compromise in sight, Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi proposed the legal dissolution of the Brotherhood - a move that would force the group underground and could lead to a broad crackdown.

"It is being studied currently," said government spokesman Sherif Shawky.

The Brotherhood was officially dissolved by Egypt's military rulers in 1954, but registered itself as a non-governmental organization in March in a response to a court case brought by opponents of the group who were contesting its legality.

Founded in 1928, the movement also has a legally registered political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, which was set up in 2011 after the uprising that led to the downfall of veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

"Reconciliation is there for those who hands are not sullied with blood," Shawky added.

The Brotherhood won all five elections that followed the toppling of Mubarak, and Mursi governed the country for a year until he was undermined by mammoth rallies called by critics who denounced his rule as incompetent and partisan.

Read the full story here.

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ONtv, a private, pro-military channel, appears to be providing a live stream from outside the Al Fateh mosque. The screengrab above shows footage aired earlier this evening.

ontveglive on livestream.com. Broadcast Live Free

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