A group of Mexican tourists and their Egyptian guides had no idea they were in a restricted area Sunday when they stopped for a picnic lunch — and were fired on by a military helicopter, leaving 12 dead, according to the tour guides' union. Mexico confirmed Tuesday that eight Mexican tourists were among those killed in the attack, the Associated Press reported.
Guide Hassan El Nahla said in a statement that the group had permission to pass through the area, and he posted a photo of the authorization on Facebook. The convoy of SUVs stopped for lunch two kilometers off the road, and no signs marked the area as prohibited, he said. The group was accompanied by a tourist police officer who also offered no warning, he said.
The group condemned the actions of security forces and called for more coordination between government agencies.
The guide union's account of events differed from statements by the Egyptian government. A Tourism Ministry spokesman told the state Middle East News Agency that the tour group was without permits and their vehicles unlicensed.
"There will be a tough penalty against the company, which caused this regrettable incident,” Tourism Ministry spokesman Rasha al Azazi told MENA.
The airstrike took place as Egyptian security forces pursued terrorists, according to the government. The shooting also left 10 people injured, who were taken to a local hospital.
The Mexican government has confirmed that two of its citizens were among the dead, and authorities said they were working to obtain more information on other possible victims. According to the tour guides' union, the fatalities included four Egyptians and eight Mexicans. Two of the injured held dual Mexican and U.S. citizenship, the Associated Press reported.
One of the dead was identified by friends and family as Rafael Bejarano, a musician and self-described shaman who had lived in recent years in Southern California. The trip to Egypt was organized by his mother as a spiritual retreat, the AP reported, and included about 15 of their friends.