Egypt tourist convoy had security permit, insist organisers
The Egyptian General Tour Guides' Syndicate has issued a statement on Monday confirming that the tourist convoy attacked by Egyptian security forces on Sunday, killing 12 and injuring 10 others, did have a security permit for its safari trip, contradicting statements made by the Ministry of Tourism.
The Syndicate accompanied its statement with a scan of the convoy's security permit, detailing the tourists' itinerary, including a trip in Wahat, an area in the country's Western Desert and a major tourist attraction.
"I headed straight to the Dar al-Fouad hospital [where the injured tourists are receiving medical treatment] as soon as I heard about the incident", said syndicate chief Hassan al-Nahla in the statement.
Nahla added that Wahat, included on the itinerary, was 300 kilometers away from Cairo, with several police checkpoints on the road there.
According to the statement, one of the tourists was diabetic, and she was too tired to wait until the end of the trip. Therefore, the convoy had to leave the main road and go about two kilometers into the desert, with no signs warning of a restricted area, nor any guidance from the tourism police officer accompanying them.
|"I strongly condemn the lack of coordination between the Ministry of tourism and the police"
- Syndicate chief Hassan al-Nahla
"Of course the armed forces cannot be blamed for dealing with terrorists in this area for the past two days under the current exceptional circumstances in the war against terror", said Nahla. "We pray for God to protect Egypt and the military".
"However, I strongly condemn the lack of coordination between the Ministry of tourism and the police, as they should have updated and warned travel agencies from organising trips to restricted areas.
"I condemn the police and all the checkpoints that the convoy pass through before the incident", Nahla added. "Why are there no warning signs in the area? And why would the accompanying tourism police officer allow the convoy to enter a restricted area despite the availability of information about the developing situation over the past two days?"
"Due to this neglect and lack of coordination by the ministries of tourism and interior, Egypt and its tourism sector will pay the price."
Nahla also demanded an investigation into the officials and authorities responsible for this "neglect, inaction, and indifference towards tourism and the lives of Egyptian citizens".
In addition, Nahla's statement demanded one million Egyptian pounds ($127,712) in compensation, warning all members of the syndicate against working without permits from their travel agencies.
On Sunday, a joint police and military operation "chasing terrorist elements" in Wahat "mistakenly" targeted four pick-up trucks carrying Mexican tourists, the interior ministry said in a statement.
"Mexico condemns these incidents against our citizens and has demanded an exhaustive investigation about what happened from the government of Egypt," President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Twitter.
The Mexican ambassador had visited five other nationals being treated at the Dar al-Fouad Hospital in a western Cairo suburb, where they were listed in stable condition, according to the Mexican foreign ministry.