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'Repressive' raids are roundly criticized

Several Egyptian rights groups on Friday accused the country's ruling military council of using "repressive tools" of the deposed regime in waging an "unprecedented campaign" against pro-democracy organizations.

The groups' joint statement came just hours after security forces stormed offices of 10 rights organizations, including several headquartered in the United States. The Interior Ministry said the raids were part of the investigation into foreign funding of rights groups.

The military, which took over control after a popular uprising toppled longtime President Hosni Mubarak in February, has often accused the groups of promoting protests with the help of funds from abroad.

The raids drew an angry reaction from the United States, Germany and the United Nations' human rights office, which criticized Egypt's "unnecessarily heavy-handed measures" against the groups, calling on Egypt's rulers to allow them to "carry out their important work without undue interference."

Friday's statement, signed by 28 Egyptian rights groups, said the raids were part of a clampdown against leaders of the uprising and were an attempt to "liquidate" the revolution.

An official with the Justice Ministry said an earlier investigation revealed these groups had received up to $100 million from abroad, then deposited the money in different Egyptian banks using names of illiterate Egyptians for the fake accounts.

The military appears concerned that foreign funding could strengthen the liberal groups behind Egypt's uprising at the expense of the military's own vast power.

The offices that were raided included the U.S.-headquartered National Democratic Institute; Freedom House; the International Republican Institute, which is observing Egypt's ongoing parliamentary elections; and Germany's Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a think tank with links to Chancellor Angela Merkel's party.

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke said Egypt's ambassador in Berlin was summoned to the ministry Friday to hear a complaint.

The Obama administration demanded Egyptian authorities halt the raids, saying they are "inconsistent" with long-standing U.S-Egypt cooperation.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. ambassador to Egypt and the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East have spoken to Egyptian officials about the situation and "made very clear that this issue needs immediate attention."

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