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Bodies of Tourists Killed in Egyptian Desert Attack Sent Back to Mexico

The eight Mexican victims arrived Tuesday night amid calls from opposition politicians to break off diplomatic relations with Egypt over the fatal assault.
Imagen vía Presidencia de México

The bodies of eight Mexican tourists killed by Egyptian security forces after their tour group was apparently mistaken for a convoy of militants have been repatriated.

The bodies that arrived in Mexico City on Tuesday night aboard a commercial flight would be handed over to their families only after autopsies are carried out, Mexico's foreign ministry said in a statement.

The September 13 aerial bombardment of the Mexican tourists, which also killed four Egyptians, began shortly after the group stopped for lunch in the Western Desert near the Bahariya oasis.


The attack also injured six tourists who returned to Mexico last Friday. All are expected to recover from injuries that include fractures, burns, and respiratory problems.

Related: Mexican Tourists Killed by Egyptian Forces Were Cleared For Picnic Site, Relative Says

One of the survivors told Mexican daily El Universal that the group was sitting on a canvas laid out on the ground between their vehicles when the bombardment began.

"We were bombed about five times, always from the air," Susana Calderon told El Universal.

Egyptian authorities have called the attack a mistake and insisted the tour entered a restricted area at a time when the security forces were engaged in operations against militants.

The company that organized the tour, however, said the group had all the necessary permits to take the Mexican group on a desert excursion. The group also had armed police protection.

Calderon, whose husband Luis Barajas is among the dead, also said their convoy passed several official checkpoints without any trouble before the attack took place.

The sister of tour leader Rafael Rangel also said the tour had not broken any rules. Gabriela Bejarano Rangel told VICE News that her brother, an alternative healer, regularly organized the same trip with the required permits and a local police guard.

The Egyptian government promised a full and transparent inquiry into the incident, though the Egyptian federal prosecutor's office has banned the news media from publishing details of either the attack or the probe until it is complete.


In an open letter to Mexico, Egypt's foreign minister argued that both countries are "in the same boat" as they face domestic threats.

Mexican foreign minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu avoided responding to the letter, signed by the Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry, in which he equated Egypt's battles against insurgents with Mexico's struggle to contain violent drug cartels.

The Mexican minister has also ignored calls to break off diplomatic relations coming from opposition politicians, as well as the governor of the state of Jalisco, where most of the dead and injured tourists are from.

"What happened has hurt all Mexicans and makes us indignant," the minister told reporters on her return from a three-day trip to Cairo last week. "We are evaluating all avenues of diplomacy and international human rights that we can take."

Related: College Students in Egypt Keep Getting Arrested, Disappeared, and Killed

In photo above, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, center, addresses reporters after visiting some of the injured tourists at a Mexico City hospital.

Follow Jo Tuckman on Twitter: @jotuckman