An idyllic, sunny trip three hours away from Egypt’s capital, Cairo, turned into a bloody massacre on Sunday, Sept. 13, when a military airstrike accidentally killed several Mexican tourists.
Numerous tourists were out in the desert, accompanied with a tour guide, police escort and the security of an Apache helicopter. As soon as the convoy stopped for the tourists to eat a picnic lunch, the helicopter started firing at the people on the ground, killing 12, including two Mexican tourists, and injuring 10 others, according to The New York Times.
The Egyptian government says that the group had entered a banned area and the helicopter had mistaken them for a militant group camping out in the desert, according to The New York Times. Meanwhile, tourist officials say that the group had permission to travel through the area, according to BBC News.
The official permit of the convoy has circulated on the Internet by the union of the tour guides and friends of the victims. The official statement of the Tourist’s Union shows the convoy’s approval to travel through the area and the group passed several check-points along the way, according to The New York Times.
The attack has caused tense relations between the Egyptian and Mexican governments. The Mexican foreign minister flew to Egypt on Tuesday, Sept. 15, along with the relatives of the Mexicans who lost their lives in the attack to demand answers from Egypt, according to The New York Times. The Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, is also demanding an intense investigation to find out how this tragedy happened.
Nieto stated, “Mexico condemns these acts against our citizens and has called on the government of Egypt for a thorough investigation of what happened,” according to The Guardian.
Even though the Egyptian foreign minister has expressed his sympathy to the people of Mexico, he defended the Egyptian security forces by mentioning that the convoy was in fact in a region which is mainly occupied by terrorists. He also stated that the horrific event does not necessarily mean Egypt does not take its law enforcement or precautions during operations seriously.
Egypt is blaming the travel agency and the tour guide, who was also killed during the attack. They said that the agency should never have offered a tour through the dangerous area and that tourists should absolutely not have been there. The travel company denies all the accusations.
Editor’s Note: Information from The Guardian, BBC News and The New York Times was used in this report.