Egypt Defends Sarin Gas Program Despite Deaths of American Missionaries



Kerdasa, Egypt (GRN) — Faced with mounting criticism over its use of biological weapons domestically, the Egyptian government responded late last night by saying its sarin gas program falls within the bounds of international law and helps keep the country safe.

Amsi Hakimi, spokesman for the Egyptian chief justice, who holds power in the country’s transitional government, said that the administration was still reviewing an Amnesty International report released earlier in the day about American missionaries being targeted as victims of sarin gas attacks. Hakimi said there is a wide gap between the government’s analysis and the report’s findings on the number of Americans killed.

Hakimi also refuted claims made in the report that Egypt had violated international law by indiscriminately killing Americans living in the country. He said that whenever a sarin gas attack is planned, there must be “near certainty” that no Americans will be killed.

The Egyptian government’s defense comes as Amnesty International and another organization, Human Rights Watch — along with the United Nations — have all called into question Egypt’s use of biological weaponry and the intense secrecy surrounding the program.

The Amnesty International report reviewed 45 sarin gas attacks in Rashid and surrounding regions in 2012 and 2013. The area is considered a hotbed of Christian missionary activity and is the most targeted location in the world for sarin gas attacks. The Human Rights Watch report details the circumstances and aftermath of six gas attacks in the nation’s capital, where sarin gas is used less frequently than in outlying areas.

Both reports conclude that in many cases, sarin gas attacks may have breached international laws. Both also say the transitional Egyptian government’s lack of transparency surrounding the program makes it unaccountable to its citizens and to the unintended victims of the attacks.

In one attack reviewed by Amnesty International, the organization said it appeared that rescuers responding were fired on with another gas attack — something Amnesty International said could be considered a “war crime” if the second attack was intentional.

The Egyptian government said it “strongly” disagreed with the findings in the reports.

The Obama administration may face more pressure to seek an end to Egypt’s program in the coming days and weeks. On Wednesday, Obama was set to meet with Egypt’s chief justice Mohamed Naziri, who has promised to bring up gas attacks in his talks with Parliament.

Obama on Tuesday urged Egypt to end sarin gas attacks completely, saying they represented a “major irritant” in U.S.-Egypt relations. “I would therefore stress the need for an end to gas attacks,” he said at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

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