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  • Egyptian forces dropped bombs on the tourists claiming they thought they were terrorists.

    Egyptian forces dropped bombs on the tourists claiming they thought they were terrorists. | Photo: AFP

Published 16 September 2015

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said Mexico experiences profound violence and faces challenges similar to those of Egypt.

The war on drugs in Mexico has left tens of thousands of innocent people dead in the country. Both Mexico and Egypt are seriously affected by large scale violence, the Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said in an open letter to the people of Mexico in which he expressed his condolences to the families of the eight Mexicans killed by security forces in the North African nation after being “mistaken” for terrorrists.

“Mexico and Egypt alike have suffered violence on a very large scale, although due to different motives,” Shoukry said. “The war on drugs in Mexico has caused the death of tens of thousands of innocent people.”

The top diplomatic official said that organized crime groups are responsible for “murdering without mercy political figures and public servants.”

He said that all this shows that Egypt and Mexico face similar challenges. “We are all in the same boat, sailing in a tormented ocean,” he added.

Shoukry expressed his condolences to the families and friends of the eight Mexicans that were killed by Egyptian security forces in the North African nation in a case of alleged “mistaken identity,” in which a group of tourists, including 12 Mexicans, were bombed. The Egyptian government apologized for the incident shortly afterward.

The foreign minister appeared to be justifying their deaths, saying that in Egypt many innocent civilians have died in the midst of violence caused by terrorists.

“The losses (of Egyptians) includes thousands of security agents who have risked, and many times lost, their lives while carrying out their official duties, protecting civilians, their properties, deactivating bombs and fighting terrorists and criminals,” he added.

The official said Egyptian security agents are fully aware of the dangers they face, and therefore are very careful when it comes to preserving the lives of others.

The minister said investigations are underway and that it is too soon to say whether the tourists were in the wrong place at the wrong time or not. He said it is also too soon to say whether the security forces committed an error.

But, he assured that the information available indicates the security forces were carrying out an anti-terrorist operation in the area.

“I am profoundly worried that some people have chosen to exploit this tragedy to argue that officials in charge of enforcing the law in Egypt don't count with the proper protocols for action and that they acted in an indiscriminate manner, and that they did not take the necessary precautions during their operations,” he said.

In contrast, Egyptian army spokesman Mohamed Samir, said nobody has the right to question Egyptian authorities regarding their operations or their outcomes.

“The incident has nothing to do with the armed forces, although the army and the police are responsible for the operation. This is how the system works in this country and nobody has the right to question it,” he said.

The Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of the Interior insist that the Egyptian and Mexican tourists did not have the proper permits to be in the area where they were attacked. This is despite the fact that the travel agency in charge of the tour published the document that authorized the tour into the area in question. They also had police escorts with them.

So far, nobody has been held responsible for the incident.

"Nobody has been accused. And considering other similar incidents in the country, army or police officers are rarely charged with any wrongdoing,” Egyptian journalist Hatem Maher told Reforma.

He said that activists in Egypt have been accusing the army for months due to the number of civilians they've killed in anti-terrorist operations.

Moises Garduño, Middle East expert from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said there have been various incidents in Egypt where innocent people are killed “accidentally,” after armed forces officials “confuse” them with terrorists.

Garduño said it is all too common for military officials to later say the casualties were in fact terrorists and not civilians.

In the meantime, Mexican Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz-Massieu is arriving in Egypt to assist the victims and their families with all legal procedures. She is also expected to meet with local officials to ask them to clarify the incident.

The Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto condemned the attack.

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