US Lawmakers are divided over whether to suspend aid to Egypt as the military continues to clash with Muslim Brotherhood protesters.
Updated 3:36 p.m.
Egypt’s leaders are debating dissolving the Muslim Brotherhood as tensions between protesters who support deposed President Mohammed Morsi and security forces remain high.
Late Sunday, at least 38 Muslim Brotherhood supporters who were being kept as prisoners were killed after authorities said they attempted an escape outside Cairo, NBC News’ Ayman Mohyeldin reported. Police responded with gunfire into a transport vehicle after prisoners at Abu Zaabel prison took two senior officials hostage, according to Mohyeldin.
In addition to canceling an upcoming joint-military exercise, the Obama administration was considering canceling the shipment of 12 Apache helicopters sold to the Egyptian military for $820 million in 2009. Thursday, Obama announced that he would cancel the Bright Star military exercise but stopped short of calling the violence in Egypt a coup, and did not say that he would cancel foreign aid to the country.
The United States gives more than $1 billion in aid to Egypt and a growing number of Senators have called for the president to cancel all of it. Republican Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Democrat Jack Reed of Rhode Island both argued in favor of cutting off the funding on on Meet the Press Sunday.
On Friday, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina released a joint statement condemning the violence in Cairo and urging Obama to suspend assistance. “It is neither in our long-term national interest nor consistent with our values and laws to continue providing assistance at this time to Egypt’s interim government and military,” the statement read.
In a speech Sunday, Egyptian military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said that “there is room for everyone in Egypt,” but government leaders like Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi have argued in favor of a ban on the Islamist political party.
The country’s cabinet was meeting Sunday to discuss a way out of the security crisis enveloping Egypt. Four days after clashes began, curfews remain in effect and violence has continued with as many as 800 people killed, according to Reuters. Protesters fought with the military on Saturday while under siege in a mosque in central Cairo. The mosque was eventually cleared and many of those inside were taken into custody.