US Embassy in Cairo Shelters Americans

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Several Americans fearing arrest and/or physical harm from Egyptian authorities took refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Cairo Monday.

A State Department spokesman confirmed that a "handful of U.S. citizens have opted to stay in the embassy compound in Cairo while waiting for permission to depart Egypt."

On Jan. 21, Egyptian authorities barred six U.S. citizens, including Sam LaHood, son of Transportation Secretary Roy LaHood, at the U.S.-funded International Republican Institute, from leaving Egypt, pending the outcome of a criminal investigation for allegedly meddling in the country's political affairs.

In late December, Egyptian authorities raided 17 nongovernmental groups, including IRI and the National Democratic Institute, confiscating computers, money and property, which have yet to be returned.

A letter to Hussein Tantawi, head of the Egyptian Military Council, dated Jan. 18 and signed by 11 senators, hinted that U.S. aid to Egypt could be cut if the harassment continues, Ynet News reported.

"Continued restriction of their activities and harassment of international and Egyptian staff will be looked at with great concern, particularly in light of Egypt's considerable U.S. assistance," the senators wrote, according to the report.

The U.S. provided $1.3 billion in annual aid to Egypt, as well backing for a $3.2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.

An Egyptian delegation in Washington this week will find out the "administration is angry," one senior congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Los Angeles Times.

"Congress is angry and their money is in jeopardy," he said, adding that they're not sure if the Egyptians will change their minds.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is the latest U.S. official to speak with Tantawi about lifting the travel ban.

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