MEXICO CITY – Eight Mexicans were killed by Egypt’s army in an apparently mistaken aerial bombing of a tourist convoy, Mexico’s government said on Tuesday, matching the fatality estimates given by security sources in Egypt and a relative of two of the victims.
Mexico’s government had previously confirmed two nationals died in an attack that killed a total of 12 people and wounded 10. It revised its death toll after studying the remains of six victims who had been unaccounted for.
Mexican Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu traveled on Tuesday to Cairo to bring the survivors and remains of the victims back to Mexico.
Survivors say their group was bombed from a plane and helicopters, an attack the Egyptian government says was an error as its army hunted militants in the desert. As the tourists tried to flee, forces on the ground fired on them, Egyptian security sources said.
The group of 22 had parked their four 4×4 vehicles off-road on Sunday for a barbecue near the Bahariya oasis, a tourist site in the western desert, when army aircraft suddenly began shelling them from above, security sources in Egypt said.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi phoned his Mexican counterpart, Enrique Pena Nieto, to offer his condolences and assured him Egypt would offer all it can to the wounded and “stand by” the victims’ families, Sisi’s spokesman said in a statement.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri penned an open letter to the Mexican people expressing his condolences and sympathies toward the Mexican people, but offered no apology. A Spanish translation will run in Wednesday’s Mexican newspapers, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
In the letter Shukri said Egyptians understand the pain felt by Mexicans due to the losses they face as a result of “fighting terrorism” and said it “pained” him that “some are using this incident to claim Egyptian security forces have no rules of engagement.
Egypt is battling an insurgency that has gained pace after the military ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in mid-2013 after mass protests against his rule.
The insurgency, mounted by Islamic State’s Egyptian affiliate, has killed hundreds of soldiers and police and has started to attack Western targets.