Mexican FM urges ‘exhaustive’ probe into Egypt tourist deaths

The Mexican foreign minister called for an "exhaustive" investigation into the accidental killing of eight Mexican tourists in Egypt by security forces

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Mexican Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu called Wednesday for an "exhaustive" investigation into the accidental killing of eight Mexican tourists in Egypt by security forces, after visiting survivors in hospital.

"The message that I bring from Mexico is that our country is very concerned that this is an unprecedented incident... We expect an exhaustive and complete and comprehensive and transparent investigation," she told reporters.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry pledged a quick and transparent investigation into the incident.

Reading out a joint statement at a press conference with his visiting Mexican counterpart, Shoukry said Egypt had committed "to carry out a prompt, thorough and transparent investigation" into the deaths.

Massieu was accompanied by several family members of the victims, according to a statement from the Mexican Foreign Ministry.

Massieu visited survivors of the incident who are being treated in hospital and is scheduled to meet Egyptian officials including President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi later Wednesday.

After the visit at the Dar al-Fouad where the recovering Mexicans are being treated, Massieu said they are stable and "evolving favorably." She said she will discuss with Sisi the "next step in terms of taking our nationals back home, and taking our nationals who lost their lives back home as well."

Egyptian officials initially claimed the convoy of SUVs had wandered into an off-limits area of Egypt's western desert, where Egyptian forces were involved in pursuing militants, when the incident happened on Sunday.

Egyptian forces hunting militants in the country's western desert mistakenly opened fire on several vehicles used by Mexican tourists, killing 12 people on Sunday. The other dead are believed to be Egyptians.

Shoukry had previously criticized those who were calling the Egyptian forces reckless.

"It would defy reason to think that Egypt's law enforcement authorities could ever deliberately harm innocent tourists," he wrote.

The incident, among the deadliest involving tourists in Egypt, comes as the country is trying to revive its vital tourism industry after the turmoil following the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt has mainly been battling insurgents in the northern Sinai Peninsula, on the other side of the country, where Islamic militants stepped up attacks on security forces after the military ousted Islamist President Mohammed Mursi in 2013 amid massive protests against his rule.

But in recent months, militants loyal to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group have carried out a series of attacks in more central parts of the country, including the bombing of the Italian Consulate in Cairo and the kidnapping and beheading of a Croatian oil surveyor who was working in the capital.

Egypt's western desert has long been a popular safari destination, with tourists flocking to its verdant oases, unique rock formations and white sand dunes.

In recent years, however, it has been the subject of security concerns because of the long, porous border with Libya. Egypt has been flooded with weapons, mostly from Libya, since the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi and plunged that country into turmoil.

Egyptian security forces frequently target smugglers in the western desert, and in July 2014, gunmen armed with rocket-propelled grenades attacked a border guard post, killing 21 troops.

(with AFP and the Associated Press)

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