World

Egypt bans media coverage of military attack that killed Mexican tourists

One of six Mexicans wounded in an attack by the Egyptian army while traveling in Egypt, is transferred from the return flight to a waiting helicopter at the presidential hangar of Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City, Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. Eight other Mexicans died Sunday when Egyptian forces hunting militants mistakenly attacked their convoy in the western desert. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

One of six Mexicans wounded in an attack by the Egyptian army while traveling in Egypt, is transferred from the return flight to a waiting helicopter at the presidential hangar of Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City, Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. Eight other Mexicans died Sunday when Egyptian forces hunting militants mistakenly attacked their convoy in the western desert. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Egyptian authorities have banned all media coverage of a deadly military strike last weekend that accidentally killed 12 people, including eight Mexican tourists and their Egyptian guides.

The ban, which was issued on Wednesday night, came after Egypt's foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, promised a "prompt, thorough and transparent investigation" into the killings amid international uproar, the New York Times reported.

Critics, however, claim that moratorium on coverage of the attack could just be a way to conceal the findings of the investigation.

"The government needs to cover up what really happened over there and basically not be embarrassed by what the investigation might bring — information confirming the role of the army in this sad event," said Mohamed Lotfy, the director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, an independent watchdog group.

Lofty added: "Usually when there is such a ban on publication it has do with very tough cases where one could find evidence or embarrassing information about the involvement of some government high officials or military strongmen."

According to government reports, Egyptian forces were hunting militants in the country's western desert when they mistakenly opened fire on several vehicles used by Mexican tourists. Among those killed in the attack were Queta Rojas, the founder of a well-known modeling agency of the same name, and Maria Elena Cruz Muñoz, a former congresswoman from Guadalajara.

One of the survivors, Susana Calderón, who lost her husband in the attack, spoke with a reporter while in the Cairo hospital where she was taken after Sunday's attack.

"We were bombarded five times, always from the air. It all lasted about three hours," Calderón, who underwent surgery on her right arm, told the paper. "God wanted us to know what fear really is," she added.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Mexico on its website recommended that Mexicans "reconsider or postpone plans to travel to Egypt."

Egypt's Shoukry, along with his Mexican counterpart, Claudia Ruiz Massieu, held a joint press conference on Wednesday where he expressed "the Egyptian government's deepest sympathy, regret and condolences to the government and people of Mexico."

"I hope that it is fully understood that it is the objective of the Egyptian government to scrutinize all of the potential circumstances related to this incident," Shoukry said at the news conference.

The six survivors of the attack – all of whom suffered burns, respiratory problems or fractures – were flown back to Mexico aboard the Mexican president's plane.

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