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US Embassy in Cairo dispatches new travel warning

The US Embassy in Cairo issued a travel alert on Thursday warning Americans not to stray outside the major metropolitan areas of Cairo and Alexandria, or from major tourist destinations.

US citizens were also barred from travel to the Western Desert or anywhere in the embattled Sinai Peninsula outside Sharm el-Sheikh.

Such security announcements “ensure the safety of Americans overseas, a key responsibility of the state department,” an embassy spokesperson told Mada Masr.

The reasons behind Thursday’s travel warning were the subject of speculation, especially after the embassy failed to provide further details. 

Some suggested that Thursday attack on a Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) patrol in north Sinai might be the catalyst for the embassy’s recommendations. 

Two peacekeepers from Fiji hit an improvised explosive device with their vehicle, and then four Americans were hit with another explosion as they sought to provide assistance, the Washington Post reported.

 All six suffered from non-life-threatening injuries and “required medical evacuation,” according to defense officials. 

The US administration has been expressing concerns regarding the security situation of its MFO troops in Sinai over the past few months. 

In August, the Associated Press ran a story quoting Obama administration officials to saying that they “fear that the lightly equipped peacekeepers could be targets of escalating Islamic State-inspired violence.”

The US was reportedly considering either withdrawing its forces in the Peninsula or shipping more arms to them. 

Over the past year, the embassy has sent out travel alerts on the anniversaries of major events, when violent protests could potentially take place.

The last such alert was issued on August 14, the second anniversary of the Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda Square sit-in dispersals. Another alert was also sent on June 29, the day before the second anniversary of former President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster.

In the June 29 alert, the embassy said it had no information on specific threats against Americans or other foreigners in Egypt, but “recent terror attacks in Egypt and elsewhere in the region demonstrate the need for sustained caution and high security awareness at all times.”

An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed the last quotation from the US Embassy to the September 3 statement. This was amended on September 4, 2015.