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Mexico slams Egypt ‘air strike’ after tourists killed

September 14, 2015

MEXICO CITY, Mexico — Mexico called on Egypt Monday to swiftly investigate why a group of tourists were mistakenly targeted in what witnesses described as an air strike that killed at least two Mexicans.

Egyptian authorities have not said what weapons were involved in Sunday’s attack in the Western Desert, in which 12 people died and 10 more were wounded.

But six Mexican survivors told Mexico’s ambassador to Egypt that they had stopped for a meal when they “suffered an aerial attack with bombs launched by a plane and helicopters,” Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu told a news conference.

The group had arrived in Cairo on September 11 and left two days later on their way to the Bahariya oasis, Ruiz Massieu said.

They were near the oasis when they came under fire, she said. The Egyptian travel agency Windows of Egypt informed the Mexican ambassador about the attack.

At least two Mexicans have been confirmed dead, she said, adding that diplomats are trying to identify them.

The six survivors, who were taken to a hospital in a Cairo suburb, are in stable condition, the minister said.

She said her ministry delivered a diplomatic note to the Egyptian ambassador in which the Mexican government expresses its “deep dismay over these deplorable events” and demands a “swift, exhaustive and deep investigation.”

“The Mexican government asks that Egyptian authorities give the highest priority and urgency to clearing up this issue,” Ruiz Massieu said.

She said Egyptian officials have vowed to create an investigative committee that will be headed by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab.

Mexican media identified one of the dead as Rafael José Bejarano Rangel, a 40-year-old musician and shaman, whose mother, Marisela Rangel, was wounded in the air strike.

According to Reforma newspaper, Bejarano Rangel supported indigenous Huichol communities and played local instruments.

The man’s aunt, Araceli Rangel Dávalos, told Milenio television that she learned about the incident “last night in the news.”

Rangel Davalos said her sister Marisela was in stable condition but that they have not been able to talk to each other.

“I hope I can go be with my family soon,” she said.

Egypt’s interior ministry said Sunday that a joint police and military operation was “chasing terrorist elements” when it “mistakenly” targeted four pick-up trucks carrying Mexican tourists.

The ministry did not give a breakdown of the casualties but said “the incident led to the death of 12 Mexicans and Egyptians and the wounding of 10 others.”

It said the tourists were in an area that was “off-limits” but did not provide an exact location.

President Enrique Peña Nieto condemned the incident in a tweet late Sunday.

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