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US embassy plays down Egypt threat

CAIRO (AP) - The American embassy in Cairo issued a 'strictly precautionary' statement to US citizens in Egypt yesterday, noting a warning from Islamic radicals that foreigners should leave the country for their own safety, but saying it had no information about specific threats to Americans.

A statement from the militant el-Gamaat el-Islamiya (the Islamic Group) organisation had threatened fresh attacks to avenge the deaths of seven extremist suspects in a police raid in Cairo on Tuesday. 'We call upon tourists and foreign investors to leave the country because the coming operations, God willing, will be extremely violent,' it said.

Although only three foreign tourists are among nearly 300 people killed in the violence of the past two years, tourism that once provided revenues of dollars 3bn (pounds 2bn) a year has been cut in half.

The government has vowed to take harsher steps against Islamic militants. The Interior Minister, Hassan al-Alfi, warned on Wednesday that the security forces would start taking the initiative in shooting suspects, and not fire only in self-defence.