OPINION: What Went Wrong in Egypt?

In an opinion editorial the New York Times is asking: What went wrong in Egypt?

“The world got an alarming look at Egypt’s bumbling war against extremism this week after a military helicopter attacked a convoy of tourists, killing at least a dozen people, including eight Mexican visitors.

Egypt is investigating, but from what is known, this should never have happened. The tourists’ convoy of four sport utility vehicles was three hours southwest of Cairo on Sunday in the White Desert when it stopped for a picnic. That’s when the military helicopter opened fire, The Times reported.

The Interior Ministry said the crew mistook the tourists for Islamic militants. The shooting raises serious questions: How could a helicopter crew, which presumably would have been close enough to identify its targets, mistake lunching tourists for extremists? Were security forces acting on intelligence from America and Israel? If so, was it faulty or did the Egyptians misinterpret it?

It is no surprise that the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the former army chief of staff who toppled Egypt’s first democratically elected president in a coup in 2013, would try to shift the blame for the shooting. The Interior Ministry faulted the tour guide, claiming that, without permission, the convoy entered a “banned area” where terrorists were operating. But the union of tour guides and friends of the trip’s leader posted photos of the convoy’s permit on the Internet.

The attack is a tragedy for the victims and their families and also Egypt, which has been struggling to recover from instability and win back the vital tourist trade. There needs to be a full public accounting. Regrettably, under Mr. Sisi’s closed, repressive regime, that is unlikely.”