Mark Linnhoefer – On Saturday, Egyptian security forces killed 12 tourists and wounded 10 others in the Western Desert. The military and police were chasing terrorists in that area when they came across the tourist group and, mistaking them for the terrorists, opened fire.
The tour group was in a restricted area, the tour company was not licensed, and the tour guide did not carry the necessary permits, or so says the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism. The tour guides union, however, says that “the tour company is licensed” and had all the proper registrations and permits.
According to the union, the cars’ licenses were actually checked by a police representative prior to the journey, and the tour was even accompanied by a tourism police officer, making the alleged illegitimacy of the tour highly unlikely to say the least. There are also reports that indicate the police escort knew that things had been very unstable for the past two days in that area, begging the question why he would let the tour group drive in there.
At least two of the killed and six of the injured tourists were Mexican citizens, which prompted a swift reaction from Mexican officials, condemning the actions and asking for a “quick, exhaustive, and thorough investigation” so that “facts are clarified and responsibilities established”.
The Mexican president has called for an increase in staff at the Mexican embassy to aid victims and families affected by the attack. The South-American nation’s ambassador has already spoken with the hospitalized Mexican nationals who told him they suffered an aerial attack with “bombs launched from an airplane and helicopters.” The Egyptian government has issued an official apology through its ambassador and promises to resolve things quickly.
Egyptian families of victims have also called for a fast and thorough investigation of the incident.
Ever since the fall of Gadhafi in 2011, the Western Desert – which borders Libya – has been a hotbed for extremist insurgents, with barely surveilled borders that allow a free flow of drugs, guns, and people. The desert is best known for its large dunes and beauty and is a renowned place for tourists from all over the world – a reputation that could certainly be tainted by this senseless, inexplicable act of violence towards innocents.
President of the tour guides union, Hassan El-Nahla, strongly condemns what’s happened, and is sure that the country will “pay the price through the impact of this incident on tourism in Egypt.” He furthermore demands that “the individuals and departments responsible for this negligence” be identified as soon as possible, a demand that he surely shares with the victims’ families.
How something like this can happen by accident remains unclear to everyone involved, but a dozen innocent people lost their lives for no good reason at all, and that will cause a backlash for the Egyptian tourism sector if the government cannot come forward with a reasonable and detailed explanation as to why and how something like this could have happened.
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