Security forces in Egypt have mistakenly killed 12 people, including Mexican tourists, during an anti-terror operation, the interior ministry says.The tourists were travelling in four vehicles that entered a restricted zone in the Wahat area of the Western Desert, the ministry said. Sources said eight of those killed were Mexicans.Ten Mexicans and Egyptians were also injured.
Egypt has been battling Islamist militants for years.Attacks on army and police, mainly in the Sinai peninsula, have escalated since Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was ousted in 2013.
Egypt’s interior ministry said the four vehicles the tourists were travelling in were “mistakenly dealt with” during a joint military police and armed forces operation.It said the incident happened on Sunday in an area that “was off limits to foreign tourists”, but it did not give an exact location.
Survivors said they suffered an “aerial attack” after stopping for a meal, according to Mexican Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu. She could only confirm that two Mexican nationals had been killed.Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto condemned the incident and demanded an “exhaustive” investigation by Egypt.
The disastrous shooting up by Egyptian security forces of a tourist convoy in the Western Desert is yet another sign of growing instability in the Arab world’s most populous country.Egypt’s western oases are spectacularly beautiful, hence their popularity with adventure tourists.But since the Arab Spring upheavals of 2011, security along Egypt’s border with Libya has deteriorated as the Islamist insurgency has grown across the country. Vast stretches of both the Sinai Peninsula and the Western Desert are now too dangerous for Westerners to visit.Last month IS militants beheaded a Croatian engineer they had kidnapped not far from Cairo. Now the possibility of being mistakenly shot at by the authorities, as well as being kidnapped by militants, will further damage Egypt’s much depleted tourism revenues.