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Egypt protests from afar: Americans wait nervously for loved ones' return

Egypt's street battles are especially worrisome to those Americans who have relatives living or traveling in Egypt. Even with skill and extra cash, a hurried exit from the country is problematic.

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“There are people in my group who are very unhappy about not getting on that flight out of Cairo on Monday,” Ms. Goldman says, but the official evacuation flights have been impossibly overbooked. In addition, she adds, many people don’t realize they will face huge additional delays and expenses once they are deposited in the “safe” spots, such as Malta and Athens. “Those repatriation flights are not taking Americans home,” she points out, adding, “and they are not free.”

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Indeed, points out State Department spokeswoman, Nicole Thompson, “We are required by law to seek reimbursement, because after all those are taxpayer dollars going into those flights.”

A US government travel warning means there is the possibility the US may not be able to assist its citizens because of events unfolding in a given country. But, Ms. Thompson says for now, if any family members have not been in touch with relatives in Egypt, they should contact the State Department at 1-888-407-4747 with as much personal information as possible and the Cairo Embassy will make every effort to help locate and assist communication.

For those who either don’t want to wait for a commercial flight or are traveling independently, the journey out of a troubled land can be not just pricey but dangerous as well, says New York immigration and naturalization attorney Michael Wildes.

“There are people who can help in these situations,” he says, but these are “mercenaries who fly under the radar.” While most Americans will not have to resort to such extreme solutions in the near future, he adds, the situation in Egypt is volatile and could veer in treacherous directions.

“If President Obama is not seen as supporting the person with his finger on the button of martial law in Egypt,” he says, then Americans could become a target.

Violent scuffles between protesters and American journalists on Wednesday give a hint of the sort of anti-American sentiment that would put pressure on those inside the country to leave.

CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann says he and his photographer were beaten up in the main square just three blocks from their hotel. “It flared up out of nowhere,” he says by phone from Cairo, and got brutal fast. His photographer was maced and both were beaten. More important, he points out, “there was nothing about us that marked us as journalists,” because his colleague’s camera was in his pocket. But, he adds, they were definitely identifiable as Americans.

Ms. Amin says her parents are staying safely inside their hotel until they leave. Is she worried? “Of course,” she says with a gentle laugh. She says the first thing her father, who is an engineer, did upon entering Egypt last week was to buy a new Sim card for his phone. Despite the spotty cell phone service in Egypt, “we talk every day and I feel as if I know everything that is going on. That is very important.”

Egypt protests: People to watch

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