What Egypt says (and doesn't) about accidentally killing Mexican tourists in the Western Desert

Published September 14th, 2015 - 12:41 GMT
Guess what Egypt's Interior Ministry statement does not include? (AFP/File)
Guess what Egypt's Interior Ministry statement does not include? (AFP/File)

While searching for militants in the country's Western Desert, the Egyptian army killed 12 Mexican tourists and Egyptian nationals Sunday after accidentally targeting a tour convoy instead.

President Enrique Pena Nieto condemned the attack on Twitter,  and Mexico has since confirmed the incident and said at least two Mexican nationals were among the dead. 

So far though, the Egyptian army appears not to be taking much blame for the incident. 

A Monday statement from the interior ministry said it happened because the tour group was driving in a prohibited area of the Western Desert called Al Wahat. They also say they are launching an investigation — into the tour group.

The vast desert area is a complex place. Swaths of smooth sand make it a popular tourist site, but militants take advantage of the terrain too. Even after Sunday's accident, Daesh (ISIS) groups in Egypt said they evaded a "military operation in the Western Desert," according to Al Jazeera. 

Further east, we've heard about attacks in the Sinai for months, so the militant presence there is clear. The military has said armed groups have recently started moving into the Western Desert's Al Wahat area, too. 

Still, we're talking about 300,000 square miles of majestic dunes and rock sculptures attracting tourists all year round. So it seems unlikely Egypt’s military will be able to dismiss such a catastrophe so easily. 

Read the full statement and its English translation below. 


Translation: On the 13th of September, while a joint operation between the armed forces and the police was chasing terrorist elements at the oasis region in Western Sahara, they mistakenly attacked a group of pickup trucks. 

These cars were belonging to a Mexican tour group; they were touring in a restricted zone. However, this accident resulted  in 12 dead and 10 injured Mexicans and Egyptians.Therefore, a team was formed to investigate and search the causes of the accident and the group's justifications of being in a restricted zone like this.



Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the attack took place in Egypt's Sinai area. It happened in an area of the country's Western Desert called Al Wahat. 

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