Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry addressed the people of Mexico in an open letter that is set to be published in major Mexican newspapers on Wednesday regarding the accidental killing of Mexican tourists on a safari trip in Egypt last Sunday.
The letter, first published on Tuesday on the foreign ministry’s official page on Facebook, is titled “An Open Letter from Egypt to the People of Mexico”.
Shoukry expressed his condolences and sympathy to the Mexican people, describing the victims as “innocent lives”.
Shoukry said that the loss of a family member is “unimaginable”, adding that Egypt can understand the grief the Mexicans are feeling as Egyptians have seen “numerous innocent civilian lives lost due to terrorist violence”.
The foreign minister assured in his letter that Egyptian security forces are the "most cautious and careful when it comes to preserving the lives of others".
He added that Egypt is still in the process of investigating what happened, asserting that the authorities are "unequivocally committed" to uncovering the precise details of what he described as a “tragedy”.
“The chain of events is still confusing and unclear," the letter reads. "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 SUVs instead of a tourist bus had increased the risk of mistaken identification.”
According to Shoukry, a security operation was taking place against militants in the area at the time the tourist group was passing by. He said that it was not clear whether there was an error involved or whether the group was "simply in the wrong place at the wrong time".
Shoukry said he was troubled by the people whom he claims were using this "tragic event" to allege that Egyptian security forces have no strict rules of engagement; pointing out that the claim made that more lives were lost at the hands of security forces than terrorists "couldn’t be farther from the truth".
In his letter, the foreign minister linked Egypt’s prosperity to the tourism sector, which he said once employed 12 percent of the country's workforce and made up more than 10 percent of its GDP.
“We have nothing to gain from the tragic incident of 13 September, and everything to lose,” he added.
Shoukry said that both Egypt and Mexico are facing similar challenges, comparing the "large scale violence" that Egypt is facing to that of Mexico’s "drug wars" and "organized crime groups" that has left thousands dead.
“We are all together in the same boat, sailing in a stormy ocean,” he said.
On Monday, Shoukry expressed his condolences for the deaths of the Mexican tourists in a phone call with his Mexican counterpart Claudia Ruis Massieu.
Egyptian security forces killed 12 Egyptian and Mexican members of the tour group in the Western Desert after mistaking them for militants. Seven of those killed were Mexican nationals, according to Egyptian prosecutors.