Egypt's government has compared its war against terror with Mexico's war on drugs in an open letter regretting the loss of Mexican tourists who were confused for insurgents and killed by Egypt's military.
The letter is signed by Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry, who wrote on Tuesday that Egypt would never seek to endanger its relationship to Mexico.
The letter makes reference to the ongoing war against drug cartels in Mexico, which sparked a wave of violence that has left 164,000 dead between 2007 and 2014, according to Frontline.
"The drug war in Mexico has killed tens of thousands of innocent people, a large portion of them law enforcement officials," Shoukry wrote. "If anything, this shows that Egypt and Mexico face similar challenges. We are all together in the same boat, sailing in a stormy ocean."
Mexican foreign minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu has been in Cairo since Wednesday to attend to the victims who remained in a suburban hospital with injuries after the Sunday incident. Ruiz Massieu said she shared the "indignation" over the matter with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and the Mexican people.
While a group of tourists stopped for a picnic in the Western Desert, Egyptian forces in a US-made Apache helicopter opened fire. Four others including Egyptian tour-guides or drivers also died.
"It would defy reason to think that Egypt's law enforcement authorities could ever deliberately harm innocent tourists," the letter said. "In fact, Egypt's prosperity and the very livelihood of its citizens depend enormously on the tourism sector, which once employed 12 percent of our workforce and contributed more than 10 percent of GDP. […] We have nothing to gain from the tragic incident of 13 September, and everything to lose."
Shoukry met with Ruiz Massieu in Cairo on Wednesday.
Egyptian authorities said they will carry out a full investigation into what happened. In a previous statement, the Egyptian foreign ministry said the group entered an off-limits area, where Egypt's military was pursuing militants.
'We are all together in the same boat, sailing in a stormy ocean.'
But a relative of some of the victims in Egypt told VICE News on Tuesday that the tour group had armed police protection and permission to stop on its route.
"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 drives instead of a tourist bus had increased the risk of mistaken identification," the letter states.
There was no immediate response to the letter from Mexico's government.
Speaking to The New York Times earlier this week, an Egyptian military spokesman deflected responsibility for the attack.
"When it comes to tourists, it is a Ministry of Interior issue, not ours," Brig. Gen. Mohamed Samir told the paper. "This incident has nothing to do with the army even if the army and police carried out the operation together."
More identities of those killed have been released since initial reports on Monday. One of the Mexican victims was identified as Queta Rojas, a prominent founder of a Mexican modeling agency.
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