Spain warns against all travel to Egypt

Spain's foreign ministry is advising travellers to "very seriously consider" postponing any travel to Egypt amid fears of further violent clashes in the North African country.

Spain warns against all travel to Egypt
The situation in Egypt remains volatile despite widespread celebrations in the wake of the overthrow of President Morsi. Photo: Khaled Desouki/AFP

Egypt's army ousted and detained Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on Wednesday after a week of deadly clashes and mass protests calling for him to go after a year in office, AFP reported on Thursday.

The news that Morsi had been forced out drew a rapturous reception from thousands of protesters camped out on the streets of Cairo for days, some of whom celebrated with fireworks.

But the UK's Guardian newspaper is reporting at least 14 people have been killed in clashes with security forces in Alexandria and the eastern city of Marsa Matrouh.

With the situation in parts of Egypt very volatile, Spain's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation has issued a strongly-worded travel warning advising people to put off visiting the country.

The ministry also said "demonstrations will take place in the next few days in certain parts of Cairo and other cities in the country".

These could be "large", the governement ministry added and for this reason "it can't be ruled out that there will be clashes".

The ministry went on to warn again visting Helopolis Palce, Tahrir Square, La Corniche, and government buildings, as well as those belonging to political parties.

Other parts of Egypt to be avoided include the northern Sinai and anywhere in the south apart from the tourist centres on the Red Sea, and the border zones with Lybia and Syria.

The UK is also warning its citizens against all but essential travel to Egypt, except for zones on the Red Sea in South Sinai and resorts on the Egyptian mainland in the Red Sea governorate.

On Wednesday, the US aslo advised against all travel to Egypt at the present time,

The US said one of its citizens was killed during a demonstration in Alexandria on June 28th.

On May 9th, meanwhile, a private U.S. citizen was attacked with a knife outside of the US Embassy after being asked whether he was an American. 

Spain's Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo travelled to Egypt in September 2012 to speak to top-ranking politicians including Mohamed Morsi.

He also met with representatives of Spanish businesses operating in Egypt.

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Looted Egyptian treasures seized in Spain

Over 2,200 looted artefacts, many from ancient Egypt, were seized as part of a Europe-wide crackdown that also snared 35 suspected traffickers, Europol announced on Wednesday.

Spanish police examine seized Egyptian artefacts. Photo: Guardia Civil.

Among the most valuable of the recovered cultural items was a majestic bust of Egyptian goddess Sekhmet worth an estimated €100,000 ($113,000), said Spanish police Captain Javier Morales, an expert in historic objects.

The Egyptian treasures were recovered as part of an operation launched in 14 countries to prevent the further looting, theft and illicit trafficking of cultural artefacts.

The 36 stolen items Spanish police showed to the press, which included a statue of the goddess Isis and a vase covered in hieroglyphics, were alone worth up to €300,000.

Agents discovered those artefacts hidden in cheap vases during an inspection of a shipping container from Alexandria, Egypt, at the Port of Valencia on Spain's Mediterranean coast.

Some of the objects were likely looted from the burial site Saqqara and ruins near Mit Rahina in Egypt, police said.

“Since the revolution in Egypt it has been more difficult for authorities to take care of the many ancient sites in the country,” Luis Manuel Gonzálvez, curator of Barcelona’s Egyptian museum, told The Local. 

“Many artifacts have been taken from Egypt to Europe and the USA,”  Gonzálvez said, adding: “as the situation improves in Egypt, we are likely to see fewer incidents on this scale.”

Discovery of the container led agents to arrest Spaniards and Egyptians, who now face a range of charges including trafficking historic objects, money laundering and belonging to a criminal group.

Among the 14 European countries taking part in the week-long crackdown in November were France, Britain and Germany.

As part of the operation, police inspected thousands of antique and art dealers, auction houses and second-hand outlets. Checks were stepped up at airports, borders and ports.

Last week the Italian government announced police had seized more than 5,000 ancient artefacts in a record 45-million-euro haul after dismantling a Swiss-Italian trafficking ring.