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12 Mexican Tourists and Egyptians Killed After Security Forces Misidentify Them As Terrorists

September 14, 2015
Archive Photo. Credit: Asmaa Waguih/ Reuters
Archive Photo. Credit: Asmaa Waguih/ Reuters

At least 12 Mexican tourists and their Egyptian guides were killed after security forces opened fire on four SUVs in the Western Desert.

According to an official statement by the Ministry of Interior, the tourists were killed after security forces mistook them for terrorists which they had been pursuing.

[Update: Tourism Ministry says tourist group had been travelling in prohibited area, without license]

The Ministry of Interior also announced that 10 people had been injured and transported to hospital for emergency treatment.

In a press conference, Mexico’s Foreign Ministry announced that the tourists had been bombed by military helicopters and aircraft while they were in the Western Desert.

Mexico’s Foreign Ministry also confirmed that two Mexicans have been identified as being among those killed. The Foreign Ministry added that it was still working to identify other Mexicans that may be among those killed. Meanwhile, Egyptian judicial and government sources have announced that eight Mexican tourists are among those killed. Egypt’s Minister of Tourism also added that one US citizen was injured in the incident.

In a statement, the Interior Ministry said that joint military and police forces had been conducting security operations in El-Wahat (Western Oasis) in the Western Desert. After opening fire, security forces discovered that the four vehicles had been civilians and tourists.

The statement added that the vehicles had been in an area banned for access by civilians due to the security situation.

The Ministry of Interior has also announced that an investigation has been commenced into the circumstances behind the accidental killing of 12 tourists and their guides.

Following the attack, Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto tweeted his condolences.

“In a tragic incident in Egypt, Mexican tourists were attacked. I deeply regret that people have lost their lives,” said the Mexican leader on Twitter.

“Mexico’s Ambassador to Egypt has been supporting the wounded hospitalized. Mexico condemns these acts against our citizens and against the Government of Egypt and has called for a thorough investigation of what happened”.

Military operations in the Western Desert

There are several oases in the Western Desert that are popular with tourists, although most countries advise their citizens against travelling there due to security concerns.

Earlier on Sunday, ISIS announced on social media that it had attacked a number of Egyptian military outposts in the Western Desert. Local media reports stated that the military had managed to cause significant causalities to the militant group, but the reports were not confirmed by the military.

The alleged attacks by militants in the Western Desert on military personnel are not new. In July 2014, 21 soldiers were killed in an attack reportedly carried out by arms smugglers in Egypt’s Farafra Oasis near Libya.

Meanwhile, in recent weeks, Egypt’s military had been waging an offensive against militants in the region. In August, Egypt’s military spokesperson announced that five soldiers had been killed when a military helicopter crashed in the Siwa Oasis due to a ‘technical failure’.

Egypt has witnessed a wave of attacks on security personnel since the ouster of former President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013. According to the National Council of Human Rights, 700 security personnel were killed between June 2013 and December 2014.

Comments (77)

  1. Commander_Chico says:

    Terrible, this time foreigners are the victims of trigger-happy Egyptian security forces. Shoot first, like they did with Shaimaa. Another nail in the coffin of Egypt’s tourist industry.

    With this horror, the resignation of the government on allegations of corruption, and the general chaos, those who hoped Sisi would be at least competent are being proved wrong.

    1. I-C-E-D says:

      You should re-read the article – these tourists were in a restricted zone, traveling as a 4×4 assembly of black SUVs. Try that in area 51 in the US, or really any military-restricted zone, and I guarantee they’ll shoot you as well.

      This is very unfortunate, as it’s wholly the tour guides’ fault – how would the tourist know the area was blocked off? While examples of brutality at the hands of the Egyptian military certainly do exist, it’s really not their fault in this situation.

    2. zGunner . says:

      Since when was Area 51 a tourist area? Also when was the last time you heard about ISIS driving around it?

    3. I-C-E-D says:

      It’s not, and that’s the point. Most countries have advised tourists not to go to those areas because there are terrorist activities as indicated in the article, but they can’t control whether or not tourists go there. The same applies here – there was a time when Area 51 didn’t exist, and it was probably accessible to the public then. Now that Area 51 exists, people aren’t allowed there. The area was once safe for tourists, and it’s not now. The facts that there are military operations going on and ISIS is making moves there aren’t secrets.

      Ignorance on the tourists’ end for not doing a web search on the state of the areas they were going to visit, pure idiocy on the tour guide(s)’s part for taking such a huge risk. If an area had indications of terrorist activity and military operations, I sure as hell wouldn’t plan on visiting it as a tourist destination.

    4. Commander_Chico says:

      There is a fence and guards around Area 51.

      They just don’t let people wander in and then machine-gun them.

    5. Jean says:

      It would be difficult to fence the whole western side of Egypt.

    6. Diddi says:

      While evidence of past corruption and incompetence is not technically evidence of that being the current case… it does set a precedence.

      In a country where eg. internet and comnunication are cut off for a length of time to prevent citizens from organizing and protesting, one does not expect much of a “ask first, shoot later” policy.

      This is a clear case of excessive military force. So what if it was a restricted area… doesn’t seem so restricted if they could just drive on in.
      So what if there was previous terrorist activity there? If you are arguing the egyptian military/government deserve the benefit of the doubt, why the F##K should a few SUV’s not?

      What, should they just shoot all black SUV’s to shrapnel because they *might* be terrorists?
      “Hey, there is a wolf in sheeps clothing amongst my herd”
      “Just kill the whole herd and you’ll get the wolf!”

      When dealing with terrorists one cannot take a standard military approach. When the enemy blends in among friendlies you don’t just indiscriminately spray the crowd with lead or bomb them. Neither when the enemy poses as a friendly can you simply kill friendlies on a vague suspicion.

      Not even on a fairly good suspicion: an hypothesis must stand up to testing before it can gain the status of scientific theory. It shouldn’t be much different here.

    7. I-C-E-D says:

      Your entire comment is made up of fallacious arguments and incongruous analogies that fail to prove anything.

      “This is a clear case of excessive military force.”

      No, it’s not. This isn’t even a case of excessive military force.

      There is no benefit of the doubt here. There really isn’t any doubt here at all. There are no justifications for tourists being in an area that has been a hotbed of ISIS activity for a while now. There are no justifications needed for the military to engage in a style that would’ve been used by every military organization in the world given this set of circumstances.

      As for your wolf and sheep analogy, a more accurate example would be a sheep killed in an area infested with wolves because it looked a lot like the wolves that live there. That’s a way different story than what you’re proposing, which is what Blackwater was.

      There are no terrorists blending in in this situation. It’s not a major city, or a heavily crowded area, but a desert. The majority of the region is uninhabited with the exception of the military bases. This isn’t some crowded city where bullets were let loose. Your analogies repeatedly attempt to make this the situation, when in reality it’s far different.

      A hypothesis is tested in science before becoming a theory because once it becomes a theory, it is essentially used as a fact until it is disproved, and thus can become a foundational part of science for hundreds of years. Wars do not last hundreds of years, nor should a military take years and years to prove someone/something is an enemy in the first place because doing so would make them too late in the event the suspicious was actually an enemy. Now imagine doing that for every potential enemy. There is absolutely a difference between a hypothesis becoming a theory and the military responding to a terror threat.

    8. sapienecks says:

      Brutality existed ever since this whole universe have begun. What cave have you been living in?

    9. I-C-E-D says:

      You missed the point of my mention of brutality entirely. I’m not discounting the fact that there are examples of brutality from Egyptian security, but rather indicating that just because there are previous instances of brutality from Egyptian security doesn’t mean that this event too is an example of Egyptian security brutality. In no way did I indicate that brutality was a characteristic limited solely to Egyptian security forces.

    10. sapienecks says:

      You said it yourself: ‘While examples of brutality at the hands of the Egyptian military certainly do exist.’ It’s as if you are considering brutality as last barbarian resort or something that shouldn’t exist in first place. Don’t be high minded or naive. I did not consider them to be at fault since it’s tourists fault for wandering into restricted zone though I think it’s more of the driver’s fault as he or she led them all into the zone. Preparation and brutality is necessary to keep peace and rough men ready to stand on our behalf against any terrorists and hostile forces. I praise Egyptian force for being strict and I mourn the tourists’ death. Nothing to blame. Nothing to sue. Just a lesson to learn how to be better in identifying hostile and friendlies.

    11. Commander_Chico says:

      The Egyptian government narrative is always to blame the victim, always to point the finger, always to make excuses for its own mistakes. Blame the MB, blame Israel, blame the USA.

      Show me where there was an official notice or degree clearly designating this a a “restricted area” before these killings. In these days, it should be on the internet.

      Anyways, in one aspect you prove my point about the incompetence of the Egyptian government by mentioning Area 51. You can’t just drive into Area 51 or any restricted area in the USA – there are fences with razor wire and signs warning people around them, guards at the gates and roads.

    12. I-C-E-D says:

      “although most countries advise their citizens against travelling there due to security concerns”

      Quoted straight from the article. The military isn’t going to announce their moves because terrorists would simply use those announcements to plan their movements accordingly, so no, the military’s strategy shouldn’t be on the internet. However, those areas have been under ISIS threat/attacks for a while now, so that’s not new news at all. Web searching their destination, or doing a little research, would yield that the area is absolutely not safe for tourist travel.

      I mentioned Area 51 because it’s a heavily guarded area. Area 51 and the oases are not synonymous – the Egyptian security does not have designated bases at these oases, and odds are that the areas they have clearly defined as military bases are well-guarded, as ISIS took heavy casualties attacking them as indicated in the article. However, mentioning Area 51 is paramount because people are not expected to be there, just as in the case of the oases. There are security warnings from almost every country NOT to go there, not to mention common sense would indicate that going to an area that was recently attacked by ISIS is a bad move.

      It’s impossible to argue about the incompetence of the Egyptian government from just one event, although attempting to do so in one that the government actually acted in a way most would isn’t helping your case.

    13. Commander_Chico says:

      Since travel advisory warnings from foreign governments often encompass the whole of Egypt, is the government narrative going to be “hey, many governments advise people not to travel to Egypt?” Wow, that will do wonders for tourism.

      I argued from several events:

      This killing,


      killing of Shaimaa el Sabbagh,

      government corruption, dismissal and chaos,

      I will add – the continuing parliamentary election fiasco,

      Al Jazeera trial,

      The “Kofta Machine” AIDS and Hep C cure.

      Anyways, what force is going to roll up on some SUV, with no sign of weapons or threat, and just machine gun them? That is like Blackwater in Baghdad, and those guys were convicted of murder and manslaughter.

    14. I-C-E-D says:

      Although your post is well-researched, those events don’t do anything to prove the outcome of this event is a result of government incompetence. All that shows is that there is a history of incompetence.

      This is unlike Blackwater in Baghdad – in that scenario, a private organization fired for no reason (according to the 5 different investigations that occurred) into a crowd of Iraqi people. There was no threat. There was no reason to fire. They were believed to do it because they felt like going on a power trip.

      In this scenario, security is actively looking for ISIS members, there is an active threat in the region, and there’s a history of soldiers dying when attempting to engage with the enemy head on. It’s not surprising that given the history of soldier deaths and active threats in the region that the military wouldn’t want to send soldiers to confront the SUVs, as they could be filled with terrorists, could be blown up as car bombs, or could simply be 3rd parties engaging in illegal activities who would also be willing to engage with security. While it’s really, really unfortunate that tourists lost their lives, this isn’t Blackwater – it’s a completely different set of situations. Why would the military risk losing lives when they could send an attack helicopter and decimate the caravan with ease from a safe distance?

    15. Commander_Chico says:

      Come to think about it, it’s more like the “Collateral Murder” video where US forces in an Apache shot up a bunch of people on inconclusive threat indications.

      Hmmm, do you think we’ll see the video from this attack? Not likely.

      Let’s see why they should not have shot up the convoy of SUvs. How about, there was no indication of theatening behavior from the vehicles?

      With helicopters observing vehicles in a remote area, absolutely no excuse for this.

      The excuses are the same as Blackwater, which said they thought they were under attack and heard explosions “it’s a warzone, can’t take chances.”

    16. I-C-E-D says:

      Except in the case of Blackwater, 5 different investigations found the same result – Blackwater forces were lying about the circumstances.

      I understand you’re biased against Egyptian forces – regardless of what information is released on this situation, you will end up believing the Egyptian forces were wrong. Responding to you is a waste of time, so rest assured you won’t need to type any more responses.

      Going forward, however, do attempt to understand the situation as well as precedences that caused the events in question to take place. There are absolutely situations in the past (many, as you listed) where security forces acted in the worst possible way given the situation, and I’m with you on those. However, given the circumstances as well as past attempts to resolve these types of situations with negotiations having ended up the lost lives of soldiers, not to mention that this is an active war zone with no population unlike a city, this isn’t Blackwater, or a situation where people in the zone have a high chance of being civilians.

    17. Commander_Chico says:

      Do you have any military experience? Other than your daddy being an Egyptian general, that is.

      There are supposed to be what are called “Rules of Engagement.” The rules are supposed to limit the use of deadly force to situations where there is an active threat with weapons displayed or other identification of hostility, not just blowing up vehicles in an unmarked “restricted area.”

    18. I-C-E-D says:

      Thanks for the attempted ad hominem. It’s the typical admission that logic isn’t on your side, and so now you’ve resorted to using mean words and calling people names 🙁

      Unfortunately my dad isn’t an Egyptian general, commander. I’m just someone who understands how to look at the facts.

    19. Commander_Chico says:

      Ok. let’s see if they have the video from the Apache.

    20. Maurice Adelmon says:

      They won’t shoot on sight in area 51. Been dozens of UFO freaks arrested there…

    21. I-C-E-D says:

      You’re right – but there is a difference between what is essentially an active warzone and an area fortified with multiple layers of security because it’s a base. There’s actually some cool tech involved in keeping people away from Area 51.

    22. LondonTiger says:

      active warzone my arse. The egyptian forces are just trigger happy and idiotic. They probably created their “restricted zone” and then didn’t bother to set up checkpoints or inform everyone that might try to enter the area.

      They obviously didn’t get a positive ID of this convoy with weapons so they had no right to use military force. They assumed that they were Palestinian smugglers and just shot on sight.

      This is Egypt, the army is not your protector, the army is your oppressor and bully. Fuck them

    23. Tony Perez says:

      BBC is reporting that it wasn’t a restricted area, the government is just trying to sweep this under the rug.

    24. Key says:

      The BBC can also tell you to jump from the 15th floor. There are “restricted zones” in Egypt’s Western Saharan Desert. Conveniently forgetting war torn Libya some odd miles away and weak attempts by ISIS/MB/Alqaeda terrorists activities in these western patches of desert questions the credibility and intentions of your media.

    25. Lou says:

      Do not trust the BBC!!

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    29. Charles Gilbert Wright says:

      “black SUVs”. No, they were WHITE SUVs. Intel before kill shot, is standard operating procedure. btw they are now charred SUVs. Ground troops also fired upon fleeing tourists while under attack.

    30. Bakr Alshahat says:

      It’s very clear that you are belonging to the terroristic Muslim Brotherhood group ” that was and still ” threatening and killing the innocent Egyptian… So your saying is away of honesty and full of lying.

    31. Commander_Chico says:

      No, I’m a Mexican.

    32. LondonTiger says:

      blame the idiot secularists who demanded the military intervene and take out morsi, instead of waiting for the next election to case their vote. Then they cry about “stolen revolution”. It’s like a kid throwing its toys out of the pram and then crying

  2. KyleVPirate says:

    A tragedy.
    Condolences to the family members. If the deceased.