Cairo: Egyptian security troops killed by mistake 12 people, including Mexican tourists, during an operation against suspected terrorists in a desert area, the Interior Ministry said in a statement on Monday.
It added that a joint force from the army and police were launching a hunt for “terrorist elements” in the area of Al Wahat (Oases) in the Western Desert on Sunday when they shot by mistake at a convoy of four vehicles carrying Mexican tourists that entered a “banned” area.
Ten Egyptian and Mexican people were also wounded and taken to hospital, a ministry statement said.
“A team has been formed to examine the causes and circumstances of the incident as well as justifications for the presence of the tourist group in the banned area,” the ministry added.
The region is popular for Safari trips.
The Tourism Ministry said the convoy had entered a prohibited location for an illegal safari trip.
“Preliminary information shows that the tourist group was inside a prohibited location and that the vehicles used by the group were not licensed,” the ministry’s spokesperson Rasha Al Azazi said.
She told state Middle East News Agency that the tour operator had not got the required permits for organizing a safari there. “There will be a tough penalty against the company, which caused this regrettable incident,” Al Azazi said.
The incident came hours after a Daesh affiliate claimed to have repelled a crackdown by the Egyptian army in the Western Desert.
Egypt has seen a surge in attacks mainly against security forces since the army deposed Islamist president Mohammad Mursi in 2013 following enormous street protests against his one-year rule.
The government blamed the violence on Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood group and listed it as a terrorist organization.