Mexicans wounded in Egypt strike head home

Tourist Colette Gaxiola leaves a Cairo hospital for the airport.
Tourist Colette Gaxiola leaves a Cairo hospital for the airport.AFP

CAIRO (AFP) - Six Mexican tourists wounded in an Egyptian air strike that mistakenly killed eight of their compatriots headed home on Thursday with their foreign minister, a Cairo airport official said.

The survivors had left a Cairo hospital earlier in the day where they had been treated for wounds from the incident on Sunday.

They boarded the plane with Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu, her spokesman Rafael Lugo told AFP.

"I'm very grateful to the Egyptian people and the Mexican people for all their attentiveness," said one, Maricela Rangel Davalos, as she was being placed into an ambulance en route to the airport.

"I'm glad to go home," said another.

A third, when asked about the circumstances of the incident, declined to comment.

Ruiz Massieu had come to Cairo demanding answers on the attack, which saw Egyptian security forces target the tourists in the Western Desert after mistaking them for militants.

The incident has proven embarrassing for Egypt, which relies heavily on tourism revenues.

In a news conference with Ruiz Massieu on Wednesday, her Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry vowed a "transparent" investigation.

But the state prosecutor, whose office handles investigations, has placed a gag order on reporting details of the probe, the official Mena news agency reported.

Egypt said the tourists had entered a restricted area in the Western Desert and were "mistakenly" killed as security forces chased militants who had abducted and beheaded an Egyptian.

Hassan al-Nahla, the head of Egypt's tour guides union, said the group had received all the required permits and set off with a police escort from Cairo to the Bahariya oasis, roughly 350km away.

They had stopped along the way and driven 2km into the desert for a picnic when they were attacked.

The Western Desert is popular with tour groups, but is also a militant hideout, with Western embassies warning against non-essential travel there.

Last month, Egypt's branch of the Islamic State group, which calls itself Sinai Province, beheaded a Croatian oil worker, who was abducted near Cairo, at the edge of the Western Desert.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria affiliate has killed hundreds of soldiers since 2013, when the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and launched a bloody crackdown on his supporters.