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Tourism company blamed for deadly airstrike on tourist convoy

An investigation by Egyptian authorities suggests that a travel company was responsible for the deaths of 12 people, including eight Mexican tourists, in a military airstrike last year, according to the Mexican foreign minister.

Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu told AFP on Wednesday that Egyptian investigators had concluded that the group of tourists attacked on September 13, 2015, were placed in the dangerous situation by their Egyptian tour company, which had not obtained the necessary travel permits for the area.

The group was attacked by Egyptian military aircraft when they stopped for lunch in Egypt’s Western Desert on their way to Bahariya Oasis.

Massieu said that the official Egyptian investigation was “nearing completion”.

She added that Egypt’s Tourism Ministry “found that the administrative authorities and the travel agency should have had more clarity on the permit, and in that sense would eventually be responsible.”

Egyptian Foreign Ministry officials were not available to comment regarding the investigation. No information on its conclusions has so far been officially released.

However, at the time, the authorities said the incident was “accidental” – the result of the tourist convoy being mistaken for a group of militants because their presence coincided with an ongoing operation against militants in the restricted desert area.

Mexico has officially demanded compensation for the families of those killed in the accident.

“The Mexican government demands the necessary guarantees so that the victims of the tragic and regrettable attack perpetrated on September 13, all of them innocent civilians and their families, receive full reparations for the damage, including compensation,” said a statement from the Mexican government.

Representatives of the travel agency Windows of Egypt Tours declined to comment on the matter in a telephone call with Mada Masr, saying only that an official comment would be made after a meeting of the company’s management team.

Moataz al-Sayed, a member of the Tourism Ministry’s advisory board and former head of the General Tourist Guides Syndicate, explained to Mada Masr on Wednesday that the ministry must present strong evidence implicating the tourism company. The company, meanwhile, must be allowed to respond to the allegations.

He said that travel agencies are obliged to obtain official permission if they wish to travel to remote areas, and attempting to travel without a permit is very unlikely.

“Travel agencies usually inform police about their movements with tourist convoys inside large cities like Cairo, Luxor and Aswan that are normally safe, let alone remote areas like the Western Desert,” he said.

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