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Egypt forces mistake Mexicans for militants, kill 12 in air raid

egyptviolenceCAIRO--Egyptian Army aircraft hunting for militants in the desert mistakenly bombed a convoy of mostly Mexican tourists, killing 12 people and wounding 10, authorities said on Monday.
  Survivors said their group was bombed from a plane and helicopters. As members of the tourist convoy tried to flee, additional forces on the ground fired on them, Egyptian security sources said.
  Egypt's interior ministry described the attack in the country's western desert as an accident.
  Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto said two Mexicans were killed in Sunday's incident, though Egyptian security and judicial sources later said eight Mexicans and four Egyptians were killed. The sources said eight Mexicans and two Egyptians were wounded.
  In Mexico, the sister of a Reiki healer who said her brother was among the dead, said a relative of the group's tour guide had sent her a list of eight Mexicans killed in the attack.
  The group of 22 had parked their four 4x4 vehicles off-road on Sunday for a barbecue near the Bahariya oasis, a tourist site in the western desert, when army aircraft suddenly began shelling them from above, security sources said.
  "Unfortunately we have confirmed that two (Mexicans) lost their lives and six more were wounded," Pena Nieto said, condemning the incident. "Mexico has demanded the Egyptian government conducts a swift, exhaustive investigation."
  Mexico's ambassador to Egypt, Jorge Alvarez, said six Mexicans who survived the incident were in stable condition. Alvarez added that the government was still seeking information about six other Mexicans of the 14-strong group still unaccounted for. Alvarez identified the two dead as Luis Barajas Fernandez and Maria de Lourdes Fernandez Rubio.
  In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said an American might be among those injured in the attack. "We've seen reports that potentially a U.S. citizen was injured," Kirby told a daily briefing. "Our embassy in Cairo is making the appropriate inquiries with local police, and of course, they're monitoring it."
  Pena Nieto said he had been assured Egypt's prime minister would personally spearhead a probe.
  Alvarez said the survivors he visited in hospital had told him they had been bombed by helicopters and an aircraft while they stopped for a break in the desert. The tourists had arrived in Egypt on Sept. 11.
  Reuters spoke to Araceli Rangel Davalos, whose nephew Rafael Bejarano, a Reiki healer and musician was killed. She said her sister Marisela was wounded. She said she knew the group's guide, an Egyptology expert whom she identified as Nabil Altawami, well. She had not yet spoken to her sister.
  "I have travelled with the guide around 9 times, and he never exposed us to any danger," she told Reuters by telephone. "He protected us."
  Gabriela Bejarano, Rafael's sister, cast doubt on the Egyptian government's account of the incident. "I don't think they were mistaken (for militants)," she told local radio in Mexico. "As far as I understand ... they were dining when they came under attack ... They were in a permitted area. On this occasion they didn't stay to camp, because that was what was not permitted."

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