The Egyptian security forces’ murder of tourists is appalling and Egypt should pay reparations.
On Monday, September 14th, Egyptian Security forces accidentally attacked a group of tourists mistaken as militants in Egypt’s western desert. Eight of the twelve dead were Mexican, and consequently the Mexican government demanded a thorough investigation. Although that investigation is ongoing, some facts are clear.
Since the 2011 uprising against the Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Egypt has seen an influx of weapons from Libya on its western border. Christian Science Monitor reports, “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.”
Additionally, the Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry said, “There have been reports, many of them conflicting, regarding whether the tourist convoy had the necessary permits, whether it had taken a detour to a restricted area and whether the use of four-wheel drive (vehicles) instead of a tourist bus had increased the risk of mistaken identification.”
As it turns out, those tourists did have the necessary permits—in addition to a police escort. The lack of coordination with the ministry is appalling. And according to Hassan al-Nahla, the head of Egypt’s tour guide union, the area into which the tourists strayed had never been a restricted area. Recently, Egypt had been battling jihadists on the Sinai peninsula. The IS branch near Egypt is based in that peninsula. However, the Sinai peninsula is on the opposite side of the country. Christian Science Monitor reported, “But in recent months, militants loyal to the Islamic State 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.” That does not, however, excuse the behavior of Egypt on its Western desert.
Egypt’s tourism industry is vital to its economy. That’s why Egypt has been trying to regrow that industry after years of unrest. With the militants’ attacking the eastern coast (and recently the center), weapons coming in from the western coast, and an essential tourism industry, the Egyptian government should have done a better job at communicating with the tourism industry to inform them of threats.
It’s deplorable that its security forces accidentally murdered a group of tourists having lunch at a popular tourist location. The Egyptian government should take this tragedy as a lesson to improve its communication and attempt to pay reparations in full—bearing in mind that the dead cannot be replaced.