Egypt’s once-thriving tourism industry has suffered another blow with confirmation 12 tourists including up to six foreigners were ‘mistakenly’ killed by government security forces in the country’s western desert.
Two victims of the shooting have been identified as Mexican tourists. A further 10 tourists were injured in the incident.
Egyptian authorities claim the convoy of four-wheel-drive vehicles came under attack when they were mistaken for terrorists who had been under surveillance in the region.
The incident took place at the Bahariya oasis around 4pm on Sunday, local time.
According to a report by The Guardian, 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.
Egypt’s tourism industry – once the lifeblood of the north African country’s economy – has struggled to recover since the Arab Spring uprisings and the subsequent election of Mohamed Morsi, the controversial and conservative Muslim Brotherhood-aligned president who was later deposed in a military coup. Morsi frowned upon Western tourism to the country and did little to support the industry during his short time in power.
In recent months, the country has suffered terrorist threats from militants aligned with Al-Qaeda. Islamic State fighters have carried out multiple deadly attacks on the Sinai Peninsula.
The British Foreign Commonwealth Office’s Egyptian travel advisory issued on 15 August, which warned against all but essential travel to the area west of the Nile Valley and Nile Delta regions, excluding the coastal areas between the Nile Delta and Marsa Matruh, remained unchanged at the time of writing.