Mass confusion and misinformation surrounds tourist attack in Egypt

Mass confusion and misinformation surrounds tourist attack in Egypt
Confusion has dominated the Egyptian government's handling of the military attack on a group of Mexican tourists and Egyptian guides having a picnic, as Mexico's foreign minister heads to Egypt.
3 min read
15 September, 2015
Mexico's foreign minister has said that she will be visiting Cairo [Getty]

A day after the Egyptian police announced that 12 people had been accidently killed in an helicopter attack on a convoy carrying Mexican tourists, accounts of the mistaken assault still conflict with each other and many questions remain unanswered.

On Monday, the Egyptian Interior ministry said 12 people had been killed and ten injured after they were confused for "terrorists" in Egypt's Western Desert, but it did not give an exact breakdown of the nationalities of the casualties.


Mexico condemns the attacks on its citizens and demands that the Egyptian government carry out a thorough investigation of the incident

- Enrique Peno Nieto

The Mexican Foreign Ministry released a statement the same day saying that two Mexicans were killed and five injured in the attack.

A tribal leader in the remote desert area where the attack took place said that four of the five Egyptian drivers and guides were killed in the attack.

Local media has however claimed that nine people were injured in the attack, seven of which were Mexicans, who were being treated for gunshot wounds in a Cairo hospital.

The police statement said the tour group did not have a licence, but on Monday the Egyptian Tour Guides Syndicate published the security clearance the tourist group had received.

The head of the syndicate, Hassan al-Nahla, said the convey left the main road, without prior knowledge the area was restricted, because one of the tourists was diabetic and complained they needed to eat.

"I condemn the police at all the checkpoints the convoy passed through before the incident," Nahla said.

"Why are there no warning signs in the area? And why would the accompanying tourism police officer allow the convoy to enter a restricted area - despite the availability of information about the developing situation over the past two days?"

The police statement said the attack took place overnight - but several eyewitnesses have said it instead happened at midday on Sunday, when the group stopped for a quick picnic.

There has also been uncertainty as to which government ministry will be conducting the investigation.

Military spokesman Mohammad Samir said: "When it comes to tourists, it is a Ministry of Interior issue, not ours."

"This incident has nothing to do with the army, even if the army and police carried out the operation together. This is the system of this country, and you don’t have the right to question it," he added.

Local media has reported that the four bodies of the Egyptian victims are still lying in the desert uncollected, according to lawyer Amr Imam, whose relative was killed in the attack.

Mexico's foreign minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu announced on Tuesday via Twitter that she would be coming to Cairo, accompanied by the relatives of the victims who were killed.

On Monday, Mexican President Enrique Peno Nieto tweeted: "Mexico condemns the attacks on its citizens and demands that the Egyptian government carry out a thorough investigation of the incident."

Several countries, including Canada and the UK have issued travel advisories in the past warning their nationals against visiting the Western Desert in general and the Farafra Oasis in particular.