At least two Mexicans and 10 others have died after their vehicles were accidentally attacked by Egyptian security forces in the country’s western desert.
The Egyptian interior ministry said a joint policy and military force was “chasing terrorist elements” in the area when it “accidentally engaged four four-wheel drives belonging to a Mexican tourist group”.
It said 12 had been killed and 10 injured in the shooting, understood to have taken place at the Bahariya oasis around 4pm on Sunday, local time.
Mexico’s foreign ministry said two of the victims and at least five of the injured were Mexican nationals, but was “confirming the identities of other possible victims”.
“Mexico condemns these acts against our citizens and has called on the government of Egypt for a thorough investigation of what happened,” Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, said in a statement on social media.
An Egyptian human rights lawyer, Amr Imam, told the Guardian that one his relatives, Awad Fathi, was among six Egyptians killed in the convoy.
He said Fathi, 37, was a manager and tour guide operator at the Kisr al-Buwati Hotel in the Bahariya oasis, a popular tourist stop around 370km south of Cairo.
A spokesman for the Egyptian tourism ministry said the tour group did not have the correct permits to be in the area and that their presence was “illegal”.
“A working group has been formed to examine the causes and circumstances of the incident as well as the justification for the presence of a tourist group in a region to which access is prohibited,” the interior ministry said in a statement.
Al Wahat al Bahariya
Qasr al Farafirah
The insurgency, mounted by Islamic State’s Egyptian affiliate, has killed hundreds of soldiers and police and has started to attack western targets.Egypt is battling an insurgency that gained pace after the military ousted the Islamist president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in mid-2013 after mass protests against his rule.
Earlier on Sunday Islamic State released a statement carried by its supporters on Twitter saying it had repelled an attack by the Egyptian military in the Western desert, a recent development for the insurgency that had been largely based in the Sinai peninsula with occasional attacks taking place in Cairo and other cities.
Egypt’s economy is traditionally driven by tourism but arrivals have plummeted as the country tries to recover from years of political and economic chaos.
About 10 million tourists visited in 2014, down sharply from a 2010 figure of almost 15 million people who visited the country with its archaeological sites and Red Sea resorts.