Eight Mexican tourists were killed and six more injured when Egyptian armed forces bombed their tour group after mistaking them for terrorist insurgents on Sunday.
The governments of both countries confirmed the death toll on Tuesday. Four Egyptians were also killed and at least two more injured in the attack, which took place near the Bahariya oasis in Egypt’s Western Desert.
Egypt laments ‘mistake’
The attack occurred at around midday on Sunday, when the tourists, who were traveling in a convoy of four 4×4 vehicles, had stopped for a picnic. A witness said they came under fire from an Apache military helicopter, which then gunned down several victims as they tried to flee toward the top of a nearby sand dune.
Images posted online showed the burnt-out shells of the vehicles in the aftermath of the attack.
— The Full-fledged Lad (@Doma_Man) September 14, 2015
Egypt’s interior ministry described the incident as a “mistake” and the nation’s ambassador to Mexico said the tourists’ vehicles resembled those of the Islamic militants that security forces had been pursuing in the region.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was quick to condemn the incident on Twitter. “Mexico condemns these events against our citizens and has demanded that the Egyptian government launch an exhaustive investigation into what happened,” he said.
México condena estos hechos en contra de nuestros ciudadanos y ha exigido al gobierno de Egipto una exhaustiva investigación de lo ocurrido. — Enrique Peña Nieto (@EPN) September 14, 2015
Victims mostly from Guadalajara
The majority of the Mexican tourists were from Guadalajara, the nation’s second biggest city, while two were reportedly from nearby Leon and another was from Mexico City.
The only victims to be named so far are Luis Barajas Fernandez, Maria de Lourdes Fernandez Rubio, and Rafael Bejarano Rangel, a Reiki shaman and musician from Guadalajara who acted as the group’s tour guide and had made numerous trips to Egypt.
The latter’s mother, 63-year-old Maricela Rangel, was among the injured, while there were unconfirmed reports that María Cruz Muñoz, a former federal congresswoman Guadalajara, was also among the party that was attacked.
Gabriela Bejarano Rangel, Rafael’s sister, told the local press in Guadalajara that the Egyptian military “didn’t even ask them for identification, they simply attacked them.”
At first the Egyptian government claimed the victims were in an unauthorized area when they came under attack, but Bejarano affirmed “they were being guarded by the local police, and they did have permission to be in the area.
Her comments were corroborated by an Egyptian tour guide union, which posted a copy of the group’s official permission slip online on Monday.
— Periódico Excélsior (@Excelsior) September 15, 2015
Mexico accompanies relatives to Egypt
Jalisco Governor Aristóteles Sandoval met with several relatives of the victims in Guadalajara, the Jalisco state capital, on Monday, and vowed to provide them with all the necessary economic and logistical support to bring their family members home.
That night, Peña Nieto announced that he had made his presidential jet available to the victims’ family members so they could travel to Egypt with Claudia Ruiz Massieu, Mexico’s foreign relations secretary, to bring home the dead and wounded.
The president’s swift and public reaction to the Egyptian military assault contrasted with his slow and less than sympathetic response to the attacks by Mexican security forces that left six people dead and 43 students missing in the southern state of Guerrero last September.
In that case, Peña Nieto waited over a week to order to a federal investigation. He did not meet with their parents until more than a month had passed and then infamously urged them to “get over” the pain of their children’s forced disappearance.