Families say 3 Egyptians accidently killed by army airstrike
CAIRO – Three Egyptians who worked at a building site in the Western Desert were killed by an airstrike from a military aircraft in what appears to have been an accident, their family members said Friday.
The men were traveling on a road near the Bahariya Oasis some 300 kilometers (186 miles) southwest of Cairo when their vehicle was struck earlier this week.
They three were buried on Thursday, their family members said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
"We want this to be known, somebody must be held to account," one relative said. "No one even apologized."
The Egyptian military did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
It was not the first time civilians have been killed in Egypt's fight against Islamic insurgents near the Libyan border and in the volatile north of the Sinai Peninsula. In September 2015, the military killed 12 people — including eight Mexican tourists — when troops hunting militants mistakenly struck their convoy in the Western Desert.
The vast area connects to Libya and has long been known as a smuggling route, which the Egyptian military has said is being used by extremists.
Egypt has been battling a long-running insurgency in Sinai that accelerated after President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi overthrew his Islamist predecessor in 2013. Hundreds of security forces have been killed in the struggle, which has seen the emergence of a local affiliate of the Islamic State group in Egypt.
Early Friday, Islamic militants launched their latest attack on the military, unleashing a suicide car bomb and machine gun fire on a checkpoint in northeastern Sinai that killed at least 10 security troops, including a special forces colonel.
The officials said the blitz attack began when a bomber rammed his vehicle into a checkpoint at a military compound in the southern Rafah village of El-Barth, while dozens of masked militants on foot heavy gunfire.
In the case of the Mexicans, the Egyptian military admitted no fault. Instead, an investigation by Egyptian authorities determined a travel agency and local administrative officials bore responsibility for the deaths because they should have had clearer permission for the trip.
Mexico's government said the association of Egyptian travel agents would pay an undetermined sum in reparations to the families of the eight killed, and that a monument to the tourists and the Egyptians would be erected.