MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Six Mexican tourists who survived a deadly air raid on their convoy by Egyptian security forces returned home on Friday, and Mexico’s government urged the public not to travel to the country after the group was apparently mistaken for militants.
Wrapped in blankets, some draped with red, white and green Mexican flags and strapped to gurneys, survivors were lowered on a platform from the presidential plane, which President Enrique Nieto sent to Egypt with the foreign minister to bring them home.
The five women and one man, who suffered burns and injuries from what one survivor described as a three-hour bombing ordeal on Sunday, were immediately swept by helicopter to hospital to finish their recovery.
Pena Nieto visited the survivors in hospital on Friday and said he had been told how the attack unfolded, but gave no details and cited respect for their privacy.
Health Minister Mercedes Juan Lopez said that one of the survivors had a broken femur, but that they were all in stable condition. None of the survivors had been shot, she said. There were reports that forces on the ground had fired on the tourists as they tried to flee.
Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu said she hoped to repatriate the remains of eight Mexicans who died in the attack in the coming days.
Her ministry updated its travel advisory to Egypt, urging Mexican nationals “to reconsider or delay plans to travel to Egypt given social and political instability, as well as the threat of terrorist attacks or the actions of armed forces to confront them”.
Ruiz Massieu said the government was waiting for the results of an “exhaustive investigation” that Pena Nieto demanded of the Egyptian government.
“What happened makes us indignant and has hurt all Mexicans,” she told a news conference at the airport. “We are evaluating all avenues of diplomacy and international human rights that we can take.”
Massieu said the government was prepared to weigh “international” action if the results of the probe were unsatisfactory, but did not elaborate. Mexico also has demanded that Egypt compensate the victims.
The eight Mexicans and four Egyptians were killed in what authorities in Egypt described as an accident when the tourists were mistaken for Islamist militants by security forces. Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, is battling an Islamist insurgency that has intensified since mid-2013.
The Egyptian prosecutor general’s office has announced a gag order on all news related to the investigation until its conclusion.
The group of 22 people had parked for a barbecue near the Bahariya oasis, a tourist site in the western desert, when army aircraft began attacking them believing they were militants, security sources and survivors have said.
Reporting by Michael O'Boyle and Ana Isabel Martinez; Editing by Simon Gardner, Grant McCool and Andrew Hay