Minister of Tourism Khaled Ramy visited nine injured victims of the accidental shooting of a tourist group at the hospital of Dar El-Fouad, which she asserted were “in stable health conditions”, said Rasha Azazy, the official spokesperson for the ministry on Tuesday.
Besides ten tourists, of which eight Mexicans, two tour guides have reportedly died in the attack that took place in the Western Desert. Security forces, according to survivors in a helicopter, mistakenly fired at a tourist convoy on Sunday while chasing “terrorists”.
Amr Imam, an active human rights’ lawyer in Cairo, said one of them was Awad Fathy, his cousin, adding that he did not die from a helicopter raid, but from an injury in his chest as he was gunned down.
“I went there myself, and the zone is nearly 900 metres away from the main desert road,” Imam told Daily News Egypt, adding that he did not pass through any security checkpoints while going to the oasis and coming back after the incident.
Imam arrived there on Monday noon and said prosecution authorities were already inspecting the crime scene. “I saw the destroyed zone, I saw the four cars burnt, and there were holes in the ground that show that the rockets were heavy, as they were almost half a metre deep,” Imam said.
“What happened is that the army suspected the vehicles, but instead of double checking with the tourism police they simply hit the group, and are now trying to put responsibility on somebody else, which I am not going to tolerate.”
Imam said he is going to sue the responsible for his cousin’s killing, and directly accuse police and military officers of the crime. “And if Egyptian courts do not serve us justice, we will recur to the African Court, and even the International Criminal Court,” Imam said.
Imam, a well-known human rights’ lawyer who has worked on many political cases, said the events come to mark the end of his career, vowing he was going to dedicate himself to bringing retribution for his cousin.
Fathy, 38, was a manager Qasr El-Bawity hotel where the group was staying in Bahariya Oasis, and was going to get married in three days in Aswan.
The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism has officially accused a company named Windows of Egypt of breaching laws and regulations in the Bahariya Oasis incident. Imam said that Windows of Egypt has asked for his legal assistance in the case, which he does not mind, since he does not blame the company.
Azazy, said the company is going to face charges for violating Law 38/1977 of Tourism Companies.
“The company which organised the trip has committed five clear infringements of safety rules and regulations, and would risk being shut down, losing its license definitively and even trial,” Azazy said.
The violations listed by Azazy were as follows:
- Informing authorities about 10 tourists and actually taking 15 on the trip
- Not informing authorities about a Safari trip, nor the location as part of the tour programme
- Changing the itinerary route without informing authorities
- Changing the means of transportation from bus to 4×4 cars without informing authorities
- Challenging the accompanying security officer’s orders and entering a forbidden zone
Azazy explained to Daily News Egypt that the ministry has defined the various routes allowed for tourists which would not conflict with military zones.
“Tourism companies have a copy of that, and although the programme included a trip to Bahariya Oasis, it was understood that they would stay on the main road because going into the desert requires different security permits,” the spokesperson said,
She added that the group had gone “20 km into the desert”. Three entities should be informed of tourist groups’ activities: National Security, the military and the Ministry of Environment.
According to Elhamy El–Zayat, chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Federation (ETF), the tourism company is responsible for the accident. Another company called Sahary Safari was in charge of providing the 4×4 vehicles the group used to go into the desert, but El-Zayat said they cannot be held accountable for “where those cars go”.
“We have opened investigations into the case, and the company did not include that area in its planned programme, it also allowed a higher number of tourists on the trip than it originally said,” he told Daily News Egypt.
The official response by different bodies of the Egyptian state was focused on “blaming” the tourists’ convoy for entering a forbidden zone, and that the army’s excuse is that it was chasing “terrorists” in the area.
Moreover, each governmental institution has been trying to lay-off responsibility. This has been particularly noticeable when dealing with the media, as the army first said the issue concerned civilians so the interior ministry should respond.
The Ministry of Health further declined to provide information on the incident, saying it was in the hands of the Interior Ministry. In a phone call to the latter ministry on Tuesday, a media officer refused to disclose the exact number of deaths, injuries and survivals, as he told Daily News Egypt to inquire from the ‘Foreign Press Centre’.
For its part, the US embassy in Cairo did not confirm reports on a US national injured in the attack, stating that they made inquiries with the Egyptian authorities to verify the reports.
Meanwhile, Ali Youssef, a tour guide accompanying a group of 17 Mexican tourists who arrived just before the unfortunate group, told Daily News Egypt that there is more anger than insecurity among the group that currently tour Upper Egypt asserting that the Sunday accident has portrayed of the state of Egypt “badly”.
“What happened has a worse impact [on tourism] than a terrorist attack,” Youssef said. He added that “Mexican tourists are the largest in numbers of all Latin America countries.”
“There will definitely be a decrease in the number of tourists coming to Egypt as a result of what happened, but that can be made up for if there is appropriate official apology and suitable compensations,” he said.
Despite the attack, Youssef said that there were no instructions or warnings from the Mexican embassy for the rest of Mexican tourists in Egypt to leave the country.