Tourists fatally mistaken for terrorists in Egypt

By Gabrielle Beacken
Nation & World Editor

In an alleged “restricted area” in Egypt’s immense western desert, Egyptian military forces mistakenly fired at a tourist group comprised of Egyptians and Mexicans, killing 12 people and injuring more than 10, on Saturday, Sept. 13, reported CNN. The death toll of Mexicans has risen from two to eight people, while four Egyptians in the group were also killed, said a CNN report on Tuesday, Sept. 15.

The Egyptian Interior Ministry claim Egypt’s military was “chasing terrorist elements” when they engaged the tourists. Allegedly, the tourists used unauthorized cars for tours and did not have the proper tourist permits, cited Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism.

This statement has been objected, as the head of Egypt’s tour guide union claimed that the tour company is licensed and the police actually checked all of the vehicles for permits before the bus left Cairo, according to CNN.

The reason the tourists gave for roaming over one mile off the guided path in the desert was that one of the tourists, a diabetic, could not wait until the group’s final destination to eat.

“There were no warning signs and no instructions from the checkpoints on the road or the tourism policeman accompanying them,” General Union of Tourist Guides Chairman Hassan El-Nahla stated on Facebook, according to CNN. “I strongly condemn the lack of coordination between the ministry of tourism, in not following up with the events, and the police.”

Mexican Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu demands a meticulous investigation into what happened, reported CNN.

“The chain of events is still confusing and unclear. There have been reports, many of them conflicting,” Ruiz Massieu said, reported CNN. “The emerging facts indicate that an operation was taking place against terrorists in that area at the time the convoy passed. We still do not know if the convoy was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, or if some error was involved.”

Ruiz Massieu speaks to the press after visiting the victims. AP Photo.
Ruiz Massieu speaks to the press after visiting the victims. AP Photo.

According to Egypt’s ambassador to Mexico, Yasser Shaban, the Egyptian government is “working around the clock” to help Mexican and Egyptian victims and their families, reported CNN.

“Allow me… to express on behalf of the Egyptian government and people our deepest and heartfelt condolences to the Mexican government and the Mexican people and especially to the grieving families who lost their loved ones in this tragic event,” Shaban told CNN. “Our hearts ache with sorrow.”

Egypt’s popular desert destination spots, including the Great Sand Sea, have been known to draw large crowds from all over the world. However, according to CNN, this area, adjacent to Libya, has also become “attractive to insurgents” since former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s downfall in 2011.

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