Egyptian security forces in pursuit of suspected terrorists sighted a travelling group of Mexican tourists and local tour guides and opened fire on them, killing at least 12 of the group.
The shooting was described by Egypt as a mistake and an accident.
Police were hunting “terrorist elements” when they accidentally machine-gunned the unarmed tourist convoy, international media reported. Later reports suggested the police had called in an airstrike by helicopter gunships on the hapless tourists, who were enjoying a barbecue by an oasis at the time.
“A joint force from the police and military, whilst chasing terrorist elements in the oasis area of the western desert tonight, accidentally engaged four four-wheel drives belonging to a Mexican tourist group,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The incident resulted in the death of 12 Mexicans and Egyptians and the injury of 10 others who have been transferred to hospitals,” the statement said.
The Ministry said the convoy consisted of four four-wheel drive vehicles. An investigation had been launched to find why the tourists entered a restricted area.
The lethal blunder will not help Egypt’s tourism image. The country has generated a swathe of bad publicity with a series of heavy-handed measures, including the jailing of journalists. The country is battling an insurgency that stems from the military coup that ousted President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in mid-2013.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) advises Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Egypt “due to ongoing political tension and the threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping”.
“A Croatian national was kidnapped 65 kms west of Cairo,” DFAT noted last month.
“Terrorists have reportedly murdered the hostage.”
The prospect of being kidnapped or hurt by terrorists, or even machine-gunned by mistake by over-zealous troops, will not encourage people to visit Egypt.
Written by Peter Needham