Egypt apologizes for mistakenly killing tourist group

Published September 16th, 2015 - 06:00 GMT

Egypt has apologized for mistakenly bombing a tourist group. The incident killed 12 people, including eight Mexican tourists, and injured ten.

The victims of the incident were Mexican and Egyptian. Survivors said helicopters and aircraft bombed them when they stopped for a break during an excursion in a remote area of the Western Desert, a popular tourist destination.

The Windows of Egypt tourism agency said it received permission to travel through the remote area, while Egyptian Interior Ministry officials initially said the tourist group did not have approval, and later said the group entered a restricted area.

Egyptian military and police were chasing "terrorist elements" on Saturday when they came across the tourist group. Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab apologized to Mexico's ambassador for the deadly mistake.

"I have phoned Mexican Ambassador Alvarez Fuentes to reassure him that the injured are receiving proper medical care and that the government apologizes for the foreign casualties," Mahlab said Monday.

The event has generated fierce condemnation in Mexico, as it leads nationwide discourse.

"Mexico condemns these acts against our citizens and has demanded that the Egyptian government conduct an exhaustive investigation of what happened," Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said in a statement.

Mexican Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu contacted Egypt's ambassador to Mexico, Yasser Shaban, and "demanded a quick, exhaustive and thorough investigation."

Shaban assured Massieu the Egyptian government was taking the incident seriously.

"Allow me at the beginning 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 said Monday. "Our hearts ache with sorrow."

Information on the incident is scarce, as news reporters and Mexican government officials were relying on the Egyptian government to supply them with updates. Mexico has not confirmed the number of its citizens that died.

Egypt has been fighting against Islamist militancy for years, further escalated by the 2013 ousting of President Mohammed Morsi -- a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The incident comes less than a month after Egypt introduced strict anti-terrorism laws, including measures that would give President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi the power to fast-track sentences for terror suspects, impose curfews, evict citizens and close off areas. Human rights activists argue the laws will be used to crush dissent.

An unconfirmed permit acquired by the tourism agency posted online has called into question the government's initial stance that no permit existed.

By Andrew V. Pestano

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