Egyptian security forces killed 12 people on Sunday, including two Mexican tourists, after mistakenly targeting their vehicles while chasing terrorists in the country’s west, the interior ministry said.
The desert region, popular with tourists, is also a militant hideout. Last month the Egyptian branch of the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL) takfiri group beheaded a young Croatian there who was working for a French company and have also launched numerous attacks against security forces.
“On the 13th during a joint military police and armed forces operation chasing terrorist elements in Wahat in the Western Desert four pick-up trucks carrying Mexican tourists were mistakenly dealt with,” the interior ministry said in a statement.
“The incident led to the death of 12 and wounding of 10 Mexicans and Egyptians,” it said.
“The area they were in was off limits to foreign tourists,” it said.
The ministry did not give the exact number of Mexicans killed, or indicate whether the vehicles were targeted by automatic weapons or aerial bombardment.
The ISIL group in Egypt said in a statement that it had “resisted a military operation in the Western Desert” on Sunday.
Egypt has been struggling to quell a jihadist insurgency in the Sinai peninsula, their main holdout in the country’s east, since the military overthrew Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammad Mursi in 2013.
The government says hundreds of police and soldiers have been killed, many of them in attacks claimed by ISIL’s Sinai Province affiliate.
Last week the army launched an operation in the area against ISIL which it said killed 56 operatives.