The tear gas that’s filled Tahrir Square in recent weeks, used by Egyptian security forces in their crackdown against protesters, has now been traced to an unlikely place: Jamestown, PA.
Egyptian blog BikyaMasr reports that Suez port officials refused to sign and accept a recent shipment of seven and a half tons of tear gas from a Pennsylvania company, fearing it would be used against Egyptian protesters. According to local reports, the defiant staff was initially under investigation by the Ministry of the Interior, which had been moving the shipment to its Cairo storage facility, but was later pardoned.
The Guardian has more on this Pennsylvania company: Combined Systems Inc. (CSI), a Jamestown firm that specializes in supplying “crowd control devices” to armies and homeland security agencies, and manufacturing lethal military equipment. Photos of cartridges retrieved from the scene are branded with CSI’s name and address. (Image below via Egyptian-American protester Sherief Gaber.)
In January 2011, CSI was discovered selling tear gas to the Israeli military, and a women’s anti-war group Women For Peace petitioned the company’s CEO Don Smith to stop selling to the Israeli military, citing the death of Palestinian activist Jawaher Abu Rahma from the gas.
Egyptian protesters say the tear gas used in recent weeks has been more powerful than what security forces used in February.
“It's stronger, it burns your face, it makes you feel like your whole body is seizing up,” a witness told the Guardian.
A number of protesters told Bikyamasr.com that the tear gas used last week has resulted in “coughing fits, chest pains, blurred vision” and the “arms often shake.” Al-Jazeera quotes a rights group as saying some protesters have died of suffocation after inhaling the gas. Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a pivotal figure in the Egyptian revolution, tweeted last week: “Tear gas with nerve agent and live ammunition being used against civilians in Tahrir. A massacre is taking place.”
CSI’s tear gas was also used by Egyptian security forces in January, according to CNN.
The branding “MADE IN AMERICA” on tear gas canisters may also anger Egyptians because it is a reminder of the $1.3 billion in military funding Egypt received from the United States this year.
More images of tear gas in Egypt: