Cairo, Sep 14 (IANS) Egyptian authorities on Monday launched an investigation into the death of a dozen Egyptian and Mexican tourists, who were accidentally killed by security forces in the western desert.
Egypt’s Tourism Ministry spokeswoman Rasha Azaizi expressed regret at the incident, pointing out that initial information indicated that the four vehicles carrying the Mexican victims did not have the necessary licences or permits for that area, EFE news reported.
She said that the group had not informed the Egyptian authorities of their journey through a desert area, to which access is prohibited.
Azaizi reported that the ministry will hold an inquiry into this incident, in coordination with the security forces and authorities in the New Valley province, where the incident took place.
On Sunday night, Egyptian security forces accidentally killed at least 12 Mexican and Egyptian tourists and wounded another 10 during an anti-terror operation.
The interior ministry said in a statement that police and armed forces mistook a tourist convoy for terrorists, while chasing “terror elements” in the western desert, an off-limits zone for tourists.
The ministry did not specify the number of Mexicans who were killed in the incident but added that an investigation has been launched into the incident and the presence of tourists in a restricted area.
Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto condemned the incident and demanded an exhaustive investigation by the Egyptian government, while he decided to increase the number of Mexican diplomatic representatives in Egypt in order to provide assistance to the victims’ families.
Mexican Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz demanded that the Egyptian ambassador in Mexico provide an explanation of what happened, and is sending Reyna Torres, the director general for the protection of Mexicans abroad, to Cairo to follow up with the investigation and help the victims and their families.
Tourist trips to the oasis area of the desert are common although in recent years they have been restricted due to security reasons.
The area’s proximity to the Libyan border has facilitated arms trafficking and attacks against the security forces.