Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Army/police kill 12 Mexican tourists & Egyptian guides, seriously injure 10 others in aerial bombardment

The Guardian
Mexican tourists describe repeated Egyptian airstrikes on desert convoy

Eight Mexicans among 12 dead in mistaken attack in Western Desert - ‘We were bombed some five times, always from the air’

Thursday, September 17,  2015

Egyptian forces bombed a convoy of Mexican tourists about five times over a period of three hours, even after local security forces on the ground had stopped them twice and cleared their passage, according to one of six Mexican survivors of the deadly attack.

Susana Calderón spoke to the Mexican newspaper El Universal in a Cairo hospital before she and the other injured tourists were due to head home on Thursday. Her husband Luis was among eight Mexicans killed in the incident that claimed 12 lives.

“We were bombed some five times, always from the air,” she said. Calderón’s arm was marked with wounds and her right leg was paralysed, though doctors believe she will recover movement, the newspaper reported.

Six Mexican tourists wounded in an Egyptian airstrike that mistakenly killed eight of their compatriots were to head home on Thursday, a Mexican foreign ministry spokesman said.

Their wider group of 22 people had parked on Sunday for a barbecue near the Bahariya oasis, a tourist site in the western desert, when army aircraft began shelling them believing they were militants, security sources and survivors have said.

Egypt said the tourists had entered a restricted area in the Western Desert and were “mistakenly” killed as security forces chased jihadists who had abducted and beheaded an Egyptian.

Hassan al-Nahla, the head of Egypt’s tour guides union, said the group had received all the required permits and set off with a police escort from Cairo to the Bahariya oasis, roughly 350km (220 miles) away.

“I saw my husband when they put me on a stretcher to take me to hospital,” said Calderón. “I saw he was very badly wounded. He had a broken arm, like me. He had many wounds on his back, his waist, his whole spine, his legs.”

“I heard him tell me he loved me. I told him I loved him, too. And then I heard nothing more of him,” she said, adding that she was told days later that he had died.

The incident has proven embarrassing for Egypt, which relies heavily on tourism revenues.
Mexico’s foreign minister, Claudia Ruiz Massieu, met the Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, on Wednesday.

In a press conference with Ruiz Massieu on Wednesday, her Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, promised a “transparent” investigation.

But the state prosecutor, whose office handles investigations, has placed a gag order on reporting details of the inquiry, the official MENA news agency reported.

Ruiz Massieu will accompany the survivors and the victims’ remains home to Mexico.
The five women and a man where wheeled out of the hospital on stretchers and lifted into ambulances, an AFP photographer said.

“I’m very grateful to the Egyptian people and the Mexican people for all their attentiveness,” said one, Marisela Rangel Dávalos, as she was being placed into an ambulance.

The Western Desert is popular with tour groups, but is also a militant hideout, with western embassies warning against non-essential travel there.

Last month, Egypt’s branch of the Islamic State group, which calls itself Sinai Province, beheaded a Croatian oil worker, who was abducted near Cairo, at the edge of the Western Desert.

IS’s affiliate in the Sinai peninsula has killed hundreds of soldiers since 2013, when the army ousted the Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, and launched a bloody crackdown on his supporters.

*Photo of bombed convoy - courtesy of 'Doma Man.'

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