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Tourism federation compensates families of Mexican tourists killed in military airstrike

In the absence of state-issued compensation, the private-sector Egyptian Tourism Federation has begun paying compensation to families of Mexican tourists killed in the Western Desert by Egyptian security forces in September 2015.

So far, three Mexican families have been paid US$140,000 each in compensation over the accidental deaths of their relatives.

Twelve people were killed and 10 others were seriously injured in a military airstrike on a tourist convoy having a picnic in the Western Desert on September 13, an attack that Egyptian security forces allege was accidental. The 22 casualties included eight Mexican and four Egyptian fatalities, along with six Mexicans and four Egyptians wounded.

Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanded that Egypt pay compensation for the deaths and injuries inflicted upon its nationals.

While the Egyptian Tourism Federation announced on Monday that it is in the process of paying compensation to the remaining five Mexican families whose relatives were killed, they did not state if any compensation will be paid to the families of four Egyptian tourism workers who were killed, or for the Egyptian and Mexican nationals that were wounded.

Egyptian Tourism Federation Chairperson Elhamy al-Zayya declined Mada Masr’s requests for comment.

However, a statement published by the Egyptian Tourism Federation on Tuesday clarified, “Compensations provided to the families of the three victims has reached US$420,000, with US$140,000 being paid to each family of the three victims. There are ongoing negotiations with the remaining five families in order to finally close this case.”

The federation’s statement added that it was keen on “reviving Mexican tourism to Egypt.”

A report published by Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Tuesday indicated that the tourism federation was paying compensations on the condition that the families refrain from pursuing further legal action.

In an interview with the New York Times on Monday, Zayat stated that this compensation does not represent “an admission of guilt” by President Abdel Fattah al-Sis’s government, but is rather an attempt to revive Egypt’s flailing tourism industry.

Egypt’s security forces and state officials have never formally apologized for the deadly attack on the tourist convoy, holding the tour operators responsible and arguing that the group was in a restricted zone and had not informed the authorities of their destination, even though they had a police escort in their company. Police and Armed Forces claim the convoy was mistakenly attacked as troops were in pursuit of terrorists in the area.

Egyptian lawyer Amr Imam told Mada Masr, “Over the past few months, [Egyptian] survivors of this attack and the four families of those killed have repeatedly met with representatives from Ministry of Social Solidarity to seek compensation from the state. The ministry has tentatively agreed to provide such compensations. However, neither the amount of these compensations nor the date of compensation has been determined.”

Imam’s childhood friend, 38-year-old Awad Fathy, who was employed in the tourism industry, was among the four Egyptians killed in the September attack.

“First and foremost, the state is responsible for this loss of life. Security forces should be more attentive and watchful in order to avoid such devastating civilian casualties,” the lawyer stated. “Those who cause such deaths, and such serious injuries to unarmed civilians should be held to account. However, the security forces are very rarely held accountable for their actions in this country.”

In an attempt to reassure tourists about Egypt’s security conditions, and to prop-up the floundering tourism industry in November 2015, President Sisi delivered a speech claiming that investigations into the deaths of tourists are ongoing. “We won’t cover anything up, as this involves the lives of innocent people who come to Egypt,” the president stated.

Sisi claimed all visitors and tourists can “come in peace and return home in peace.”

Egypt’s state-managed Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) reported a 47.2 percent year-on-year decline in the number of tourists to Egypt in March 2016.

This decline in tourism has led to thousands of jobs being lost in the tourism sector, along with the associated decline of hard currency in circulation within Egypt’s national economy.

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