According to Egypt’s interior ministry, the tourists were travelling in four vehicles that entered a restricted zone in the Wahat area of the Western Desert. The tourist convoy was mistaken for militants the Egyptian military and security units were chasing.
Ten other Mexicans and Egyptians were injured during this operation. Egyptian authorities opened an investigation to shed lights on the incident.
Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto condemned the incident and “demanded an exhaustive investigation by the Egyptian government”.
The Mexican foreign ministry confirmed that at least two of its nationals had been killed and said it was working to confirm the identities of the other victims.
But this accident, which raised serious safety concerns, is likely to hurt the Egyptian tourism industry which employs one in 10 workers and is one of the economy’s main sources of foreign revenue.
Tourism has been hit hard by the 2011 popular uprising against Hosni Mubarak and the aftermath political turmoil. The most populous country in the Arab world has been rocked lately by a series of deadly attacks by Islamist militants in the Sinai Peninsula and the capital, Cairo.
The authorities subsequently launched a sweeping crackdown targeting extremists and supporters of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, overthrown by the then army chief, and now president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi after mass street protests.
During this crackdown, hundreds of people were killed and thousands jailed. Hundreds more were sentenced to death after speedy trials, denounced by the UN as “unprecedented in recent history”.
In retaliation, militants have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers, mostly in the Sinai Peninsula, where jihadists are waging a campaign against the security forces and vowing to continue fight against the Egyptian government.