Egyptian security forces have mistakenly killed 12 tourists in a counter-terrorism raid conducted in the Western Desert near the border with Libya.
Egypt did not give an exact breakdown of the casualties but said “the incident led to the death of 12 Mexicans and Egyptians and wounding of 10 others”.
Members of Egypt’s military and police were chasing terrorist elements in the country’s vast Western Desert when they came upon the tourists, among who were people from Mexico and Egypt, the ministry also said.
According to the Rasha Azazi, a spokesperson for the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism, the tour company involved “did not have permits and did not inform authorities”, The Associated Press learned.
Official reports said two Mexican tourists were killed and six others hospitalized with injuries.
Ms Ruiz Massieu has also demanded an investigation, as well as the support of Egyptian authorities for Mexican nationals being transported to Cairo.
Mexico said the victims of the attack were taken to Dar al-Fouad Hospital, an upscale and widely respected facility in Cairo’s eastern suburbs, and that the Mexican ambassador and consular staff were there to help them. “The vehicles used by the tourist convoy closely resembled those of the militants the joint force had been pursuing, security sources said”.
“I have been in communication with Egypt’s ambassador in Mexico, Yasser Shaban, since yesterday, and I received him this morning at the Foreign Secretariat, where a diplomatic note, in which the government of Mexico expresses its deep consternation over this deplorable incident, was given to him”, Ruiz Massieu said.
Egyptian troops and police forces, who suspected a convoy of four vehicles were carrying terrorists, dropped bombs “from an airplane and helicopters”.
Egypt’s foreign minister spoke Monday with Mexico’s foreign minister and said the tourists had been in a restricted area.
Initially, Egyptian authorities were swift to blame group organizers saying they did not have permission to visit the area.
As Egypt attempts to recover from political and economic chaos, the number of tourists visiting the country has plummeted by a third from 15 million in 2010 to ten million previous year.
The bodies of the Egyptian victims are reportedly still lying in the desert.
Egypt has been struggling to quell a militant insurgency in the Sinai peninsula in the east since the military overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in 2013.
Hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed by the insurgency, which includes the Islamic State’s Egyptian affiliate, known as the Sinai Province.